In 2015, my good friend Björn Ross in Copenhagen decided to organise a festival with nothing but solo concerts. He invited me to do a new programme. I’d been working on sacred music for a number of years, looking at pieces of music with interesting texts and this commission gave me the space to really focus and bring together different strands of my thought.
Now I want to share this music with more people by making a CD which will be accompanied by podcasts talking about the background to the pieces I play and with readings of spiritual writings from the same era.
Sacred Fragments is a programme of sacred 13th and 14th century music from England. The title refers to the fact that the music I chose comes from manuscripts which have been broken up, chopped into, reconfigured and reused. Some of the pieces actually have bits missing. Other pieces, which were originally in a single book at the Abbey Cathedral of Worcester, are now in two separate libraries! I particularly love the music in a manuscript from Meaux Abbey in the East Riding of Yorkshire, not far from Beverley. The music dates from the early 14th century and is written on four sheets of parchment which have been cut right down the middle and sewn into the ends of a 15th century book as flyleaves to protect the ‘more valuable’ new contents. The mesmeric music found in these fragments is all the more precious for its random preservation, when the rest of the book they were in has been lost. The manuscript is now in a library in Chicago.
For me, sacred music takes me back to my roots because I sang in the youth choir at Blackburn Cathedral when I was a teenager, the place where my passion for old old music was born. As a pilgrim and spiritual person (I meditate, I go to church, I walk pilgrimages and go on retreats), I feel really fulfilled when I get to bring that side of myself into my musical activities. I am not pretending that this music was ever heard played on harp in the middle ages though. It’s simply too beautiful for me not to want to play it! English medieval music has its own special flavour, special sonorities which I think are perfect for recreation on a harp tuned in a gorgeously pure Pythagorean temperament.
This is going to be my second solo album and this time I’ll be playing on my small medieval harp, a Mathilde model by Alice Margerum, which has 19 strings. This harp has a sweet, angelic sound, like the ringing of distant bells or a heavenly choir (if you can imagine that!)
As I am currently studying at Huddersfield University, doing a doctorate on the history of improvisation in the medieval music revival, I have been able to keep my costs quite low by using a professional recording studio in the Creative Arts Building which I can use for free. My colleague Gabriele Miracle will be my trusty producer – he has an amazing creative ear and really helped me transform my first CD. Very generously he is donating his time. This is a summary of the costs:
- Travel, accommodation and food for the producer: £535
- Recording engineer: £500
- Cover artwork: £500
- CD design: £500
- CD printing and production: £1,000
- Guest artist (if I get the sponsorship): travel, accommodation and food: £365
I'm trying to raise £2,500 and will pay the rest of the costs myself. Any extra will help with publicity and enable me to put on some concerts so more people can enjoy my music live.
The dates for recording are already fixed and I expect the CD will be produced and with you by mid to late December but I will keep in touch if the timetable slips. Podcasts will be completed and posted online during 2019 and 2020.
You can benefit from a lovely range of rewards including receiving the original artwork - I'm going to commission Marion Stich, a graphic artist and illustrator local to me who works with old printing presses; you can see some examples of her work at http://www.latelier-encre.com/portfolio/. You could also choose to have an intimate solo concert in your home (only available to UK residents), getting an extra track as an mp3 which I will choose, prepare and record just for you or having a chat and a performance of something from the CD, either by Skype or in a suitable venue in London. Plus of course you get just loads of my gratitude for your support.
I really appreciate you reading this, thinking about supporting me, forwarding to your friends, spreading the word and buying my album in advance!
PS the opening of the video was shot at a fragment of the medieval castle in the town where I live….fragments are everywhere!