What an incredible experience to premiere ELEVEN new songs in a cycle by ELEVEN composers! It took mental stamina to honour each style and all SIX languages (English, Welsh, Portuguese, Yiddish, French and Italian). Here are some fun silly photos and my program note, plus the review from the Independent. Thank you so much to Michael Zev Gordon for inviting me to this project, and to Stephen and Jackie Newbould of BCMG for their incredible friendship and guidance, as always. Special mention to Chris Yates (viola) for his beautiful playing in our duet and to Zoe Martlew for her positive energy.
It’s not so simple to define what a folk song truly is. Oh, we stick a label on it, refer to Cecil Sharp, but if folk in this instance is defined as of the people then we can agree labels are limiting, let alone divisive. FOLK: people, all people, you, me, them, heritages, stories, memories, images, sounds and words which can create a connection between us all. Across the generations and across the continents, mirroring societies from yesteryear to what just might be our tomorrow. So, what an apt title “CrossCurrents” is. It allows each of these eleven composers to come from his or her own direction and to tell their story on their own terms. Be it through lullabies which were either sung to the composers when they were small, a simple childhood tune or an ode to lost love now enriched and deepened by the prism of the adult reflection. Or a commentary on the complexity and hilarity of modern life and how we just may not have the tools in a web browser or within ourselves to cope. So we stop and listen to the patterns and vibrations of the world. These folk songs expose the composers in fascinatingly intimate ways. After all, isn’t the oft-quoted advice “write what you know – make it personal”?
If there’s one thing I have learned, it is that we must continue to tell our stories over and over again. In doing so, we clarify our experiences and our identity in this kerfuffle called life, and we remember, or attempt to. Perhaps we will even find a bit of peace along the way. I don’t often get an opportunity to put my thoughts down in a program note. By no means is this a performance road map. It’s my acknowledgement that we’re all in this Jungian mud puddle together looking for some answers, and so through these songs, with a humble nod to Berio, I hope we will ignite the connection of our common humanity.