In April 2017, I started a project to play my cello in all of Suffolk's 500 medieval churches. This summer, I plan to make a recording in a medieval church and produce a CD in time for the completion of my project in September (coronavirus permitting). It will be a lasting celebration of my musical tour and I would love you to help me make it happen!
For those of you who don't know me, my name is Yalda and I live in an old farmhouse in the middle of Suffolk with lots of animals, where I run a B&B (though clearly not at the moment...). I spent all my holidays here as a child, and after my parents died I took it on. I didn't know what the future would hold; I just had to trust my instinct that, surrounded by what I loved most, everything would eventually fall into place.
That slow falling into place is still happening six years later. The process is exciting and sometimes unpredictable. To be frank, I never intended for my life to involve this much music! I didn't think the cello was important enough to me. But something happened to change this a few years ago: I realised it could express for me something that words could not, and might help me, gradually, to come to terms with loss. My relationship with the cello has become something entirely new and wonderful. Being able to share this with others is a privilege, and it has also brought me many new friends, acquaintances and colleagues, so that for the first time, I feel I have found my place in life, and I feel part of a community.
In April 2017, I started a project to play my cello in all of Suffolk's approximately 500 medieval churches. The story began, really, with childhood bike rides punctuated by stops at village churches, and continued with my first ever concert in a Suffolk church at the age of 13, in Wattisham. When I moved to Suffolk in 2011, I started to explore the county more widely, wanting to get to know it intimately and discover all the hidden corners that no one will every direct you to. Looking for churches seemed a perfect way to do this. The addition of the cello was the last, entirely personal, piece of the puzzle to fall into place. You can read the whole story in my blog introduction, or listen to the interview I gave on BBC Radio Suffolk in July 2017.
My project has raised money for the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust, the Churches Conservation Trust, and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust. I have also given many fundraising concerts across the county for individual villages, which bear the financial and practical burden of maintaining their historic church buildings. I have been interviewed about the project on BBC Radio Suffolk and Get Classical, and articles have been published in the East Anglian Daily Times, Suffolk Free Press and The Church Times.
After three and a half years of wonderful adventures and music-making, on 26th September 2020 (coronavirus permitting) I will complete my musical journey around Suffolk. This occasion will be marked by a concert in St Bartholomew's church, Orford.
During my project I have played in, taken photos of and written about every church. I have often been asked, 'do you record yourself in every church?', or 'have you got any CDs?' The answer has always been 'No'. I only have the odd snippet of audio or video, taken by an audience member at a concert or by me on a pocket-sized sound recorder (such as in Chattisham church: listen to the Prelude from Bach Suite no. 2 in D minor here). The introductory video above was made spontaneously on a rainy September afternoon at Little Wenham church, with my friend Hala.
The lack of a proper audio record of my musical tour is a glaring omission and - better late than never - I have decided it is time to change the 'No' into a 'YES'!
The funding is only part of the story: my Suffolk church project has been a hugely sociable, joyful experience, bringing such a strong sense of community, and I would love for this recording to reflect these same wonderful qualities of my last three years of music-making in Suffolk's churches.
The money raised through Crowdfunder will enable me to:
- make a recording of solo cello music in Badley church in late July;
- commission a new piece of solo cello music, to be included on the CD and premiered at the final concert in Orford; and
- produce CDs for sale mostly at concerts in Suffolk churches. A donation from each sale will go to the Churches Conservation Trust, to support their work caring for 20 redundant churches in Suffolk, including Badley.
The music on the CD will be:
Bach cello suite no. 4 in E flat major;
Bach cello suite no. 5 in C minor, and
A commissioned set of variations on a Walton theme (Tema per variazioni) by Benjamin Ellin.
I have chosen these two Bach suites partly because they are lesser known than the first three. But more importantly, I have chosen no. 4 because E flat major is my favourite key; and no. 5 because if I had to choose just one piece of cello music to pair with a medieval church, this would be it. You can hear the opening of this piece in the introductory video above.
The cost of the project will be £5650, which is broken down as follows:
£2050 Recording, editing and production of a master CD;
£2250 Commission of a new piece by Benjamin Ellin;
£360 Copyright & CD manufacture license fees;
£990 CD artwork, production and packaging.
My grateful thanks to the Churches Conservation Trust for offering the use of Badley church free of charge.
You can choose from a range of rewards on the right as a big THANK YOU for your support! Pre-ordering the download or CD is a simple and effective way to get involved, but if you have enjoyed my concerts or blogs over the last three years, perhaps you would like to look through the other rewards on offer, from live cello music (once the coronavirus crisis is past!) to tickets for the Orford concert.
I will be hugely grateful, whatever amount you are able to contribute - and please don't feel limited to the specified reward amounts! You can also choose simply to donate to the project. All rewards also include priority ticket booking for the Orford concert.
Please tell friends, family and colleagues, and share this story on social media. It will make a huge difference - and the more people who get involved, the more exciting the project will be!
Thank you so much for your support.
Find out more at crosswaysfarm.co.uk/suffolk-churches