I was very pleased to be asked a little while ago to do some community song writing for Dry Water Arts as part of their Arts Council funded KIN project. The project focuses on ideas about kindness and kindred in a Covid conscious world and is ongoing until April 2022. Central to the project is the Japanese philosophy of Kintsugi which teaches us how to value what we have, and importantly how to value the processes of repair, renewal, and change.
My first piece of work on the project was to write a song in collaboration with participants from their Dementia Positive programme and to include The Amble Harbour Lights Choir in the recording process. We would launch the song as part of The Amble Light Festival scheduled for Sunday November 21st, 2021. As I write this blog, I have to report that the festival had to be postponed due to very bad weather and the hope is that it will happen before Christmas but if not then we will go for something early in the new year.
I started with the fragment of a tune and then gathered some lyrical ideas that had come from workshops with the Dementia Positive participants. This enabled me to develop the tune and start to pull the lyrics together …
I recorded the basic track at home with piano, guitar, drum machine, and lots of vocals. I then sent everything over to my producer Dave Maughan who added bass and technical orchestration. It’s always a bit of back and forth when Dave and I work together but the aim is always to make the best track we can and provide a musical setting that will allow the song to shine.
The next step for me was to visit The Amble Harbour Lights Choir up in Amble. I got in touch with Choir Leader Sarah Gray and she was happy to have me pop in to one of their rehearsals. They were just beginning to meet again regularly after the disruptions caused by the pandemic and as you can see from the picture, they were diligently observing social distancing guidelines.
I have to admit to being a little nervous about meeting the group but I need not have worried, they were lovely. I introduced myself, told them a bit about the project and how the song had developed so far. I then pressed ‘play’ and let them have a listen to what Dave and I had recorded so far. To my great relief they all really liked the song and were keen to be involved. In normal circumstances the next step would have been to try and record the whole choir together but because of social distancing restrictions this was not possible.
The solution to the problem was to ask choir members to try and record their parts at home in whatever way they could, be it on their phones or some other recording device. Producer Dave Maughan put together a guide recording audio clip and asked choir members to follow instructions. They did a really great job and the result was a whole load of home recordings we could use on the big chorus parts that dominates the second half of the song.
Dave Maughan did a tremendous job bringing all of the vocal parts together both on a technical and a musical level. The result is a lovely sounding track and the response to the release of the track has been extremely positive. You can have a listen and download the track from my Bandcamp site. All revenues go to supporting Dry Water Arts Dementia Positive programmes.
Steve set up his YouTube channel sometime ago but has only recently begun to add to it. The content will be expanded in the coming months. You can expect a combination of some 'live' performance clips, promo videos and conversations. If you click the subscribe button (free of charge, of course) on the YouTube channel page then you will be notified every time some new content is added to the channel. For a link to the channel and a few insights into the video making process, take a couple of minutes to read the blog post.
It feels like a lifetime since I last 'hit the road' but on Friday 13th of August 2021, I was able, at last, to go out and do a 'live' gig. The date might be unlucky for some but not for me. The venue was The Kontra Roots Club near Northampton and I was so happy to finally make my first solo appearance in years . The audience came to listen, appreciate and have a bit of fun. I had a great time.
A while back in May 2016 when the world was a very different place, I was asked to work on and pull together a recording for the London Branch of the Northern Ireland Supporters Club. They were about to make their way over to Paris to support their football team in the upcoming European Championships...