Singing in the Spirit of Edward Thomas Parts 1 & 2
Singing in the Spirit of Edward Thomas Part 2 is an hour-long "gig theatre" piece, featuring a mix of new settings of Thomas' poetry, folk song, readings of his prose work and sound design that includes recordings made during Singing in the Spirit of Edward Thomas Part 1. This was a singing walk around Steep in Hampshire inspired by Thomas' "Pocket Book of Poems and Songs for the Open Air", that took place on 9th April 2017 to commemorate the centenary of Thomas' death.
During his short life, Thomas wrote a huge number of words about nature and about walking, particularly in the south of England; he found “deepest ease and joy out of doors”. He was also a keen singer, preferring "Somer is icumen in to Beethoven”, having grown up hearing the Welsh songs of his mother and aunt. His writing is full of references to the sounds around him and it's been estimated that up to a third of his poems are influenced by song or music; some contain direct quotes from songs; some share the form and rhythm of a specific song; others reference heard instruments and melodies.
This moving piece, part song cycle, part sound installation, part reading, is being extended for performances in 2018 to commemorate the end of the first world war. Despite being killed in action, Thomas writes not of life in the trenches but rather the landscape of home left behind and, as a pioneering environmentalist, his work strives to "show us our position, responsibilities and debts among the other inhabitants of the earth". A sentiment as relevant today as it's ever been.
Composition, sound design, voice, double bass - Rebecca Askew
Tenor saxophone - Lisa Guile
Trombone - Donald Manson
Cornet, electronics - Al Strachan
Often I had gone this way before:
But now it seemed I never could be
And never had been anywhere else;
'Twas home; one nationality
We had, I and the birds that sang,
They welcomed me. I had come back
That eve somehow from somewhere far:
The April mist, the chill, the calm,
Meant the same thing familiar
And pleasant to us, and strange too,
Yet with no bar.
The thrush on the oaktop in the lane
Sang his last song, or last but one;
And as he ended, on the elm
Another had but just begun
His last; they knew no more than I
The day was done.
Then past his dark white cottage front
A labourer went along, his tread
Slow, half with weariness, half with ease;
And, through the silence, from his shed
The sound of sawing rounded all
That silence said.
"So evocative....you sit absolutely entranced, you could feel the audience...."
"Absolutely stunning! Very well thought through, I could visualise it, I could see it as a film"
"I thought it was brilliant! I thought some of the connections between the music and the words were beautiful"
"The sound effects are great!"
Suddenly the silence of the chalky lane is riven and changed into a song.….. it is the nightingale’s ….Beautiful as the notes are for their quality and order, it is their inhumanity that gives them their utmost fascination, the mysterious sense which they bear to us that earth is something more than a human estate, that there are things not human yet of great honour and power in the world. The very first rush and the following wail empty the brain of what is merely human and leave only what is related to the height and depth of the whole world. Here for this hour we are remote from the parochialism of humanity. The bird has admitted a larger air. We breathe deeply of it and are made citizens of eternity.
(The South Country)