February Fade-Ins: The Plaque On The House

February 29th
Today there has been an extraordinary cake-making effort, the ending of my new piece and a glorious rehearsal of The Bridge Singers, during which we discussed 19th century Northumbrian pronunciation, came to grips with a fishing song, a new formation and some 6-part delights. This is Tony Williams again discussing the words at the end which are from a letter of Oliver Cromwell to the Scots in August 1650, and some plainchanty music which will be almost the ending – mustn’t ruin all the surprises. This is also a flock of birds at sunrise and some overhanging sycamore.


February 28th
Today I have marched in a dishevelled, and weary state with the Scottish prisoners down the North Road and across Felton bridge…musically, that is. However, failing to record anything of note, I give you a redshank espied when Jamie and I went to Alnmouth for a bracing walk and then out to dinner. Yes. Out for a meal. Most un-jamieandcheryl-like. I should perhaps also mention that it was a prize in a raffle, so in fact for our shared starter platter, two main courses, two beers and an Appletizer we only forked out £2.45. It turned out to be “Happy Hour” as well, so all the food elements of this were half price, but nonetheless delicious.

February 27th
We had a choir committee meeting this morning at which we discussed amongst other things, our forthcoming May 7th concert, away days at the seaside, choc ices, Christmas bookings, and also ate delicious fruit loaf baked by Eileen. I also searched for and found this song which is from around 1650 and is entitled The Loyal Soldier and tells a sorry tale of defeated Royalist soldiers in the Civil War. This is Tony talking some more about his poem which is as we speak continuing to form itself into my new song, and this is a postcard of our bridge and the houses at the bottom of West Thirston, in the olden days before the new bridge was built!


February 26th
I had a chat in Barter Books with Tony the poet about some of his inspiration, and also made some more progress with the song. This section after the opening glissandi, again centring around a middle Bb and leading into the section you heard yesterday. Considering, after our chat, some drumming. This is Tony talking of Andrew Marvell, and me singing of…
…the Starving
and the Sick, and Those
who will survive to go
across England’s ocean.


February 25th
Song progress:
The Scottish soldiers stood
between Dunbar’s red stone,
that hard place the Kirk,
an English Devil and
the grey North Sea,
and having lost were taken….
Lyrics: Tony Williams. Music: Cheryl Camm
complete with error in the singing of “that”, but just a prototype after all.


February 24th
Today, I’m back on the real task of composing my new song, albeit diverted for a while in the afternoon by meetings and cake with Tim the Chairman and these Civil War marches. The first is Lord Monk’s and the second Prince Rupert’s. Lord Monk was an ally of Oliver Cromwell initially, although turned his coat when the monarchy was restored. Prince Rupert was a Bohemian ally of Charles I and fought against Cromwell’s army in the English Civil War.


February 23rd
Today I went to Newcastle on a bus and had a meeting at the Tyne Theatre with Jane, Heather and Frank about a possible project coming up towards the end of the year, and Jack gave us a wonderful tour around this very historic and unique theatre. Under the stage and up in the gods – incredible. Anyway, I did learn a thing or two about the original composing and performance of The Lambton Worm, which we’re currently learning in The Bridge Singers, and which I did a couple of times at Grangetown Primary School back in the noughties. The first time, we (Mrs Hoyland’s Year 1&2 class) made puppets and did a giant puppet show for the grand opening of the new school building. The second time, the school choir sang while Miss Greensit’s Year 1 class did (quite energetic and noisy) actions in front. This is Christopher’s puppet of Young Lambton fishing in the Wear, and the sounds from the second with a very distant microphone and a very heavy-handed pianist.


February 22nd
I woke up today with the intention of doing nothing requiring thought or effort, having extra sleep, bit-by-bit tidying my car-ful of musical workshop equipment from its Sunday night dumping place in the living room to its hidey-hole in my upstairs office, recouping lashings of energy for The Bridge Singers tonight, with whom I would learn the 2nd verse of our Bach chorale, add some musical finesse to a section of the Anerio, sort out the quirky rhythms in verse 2 of Reynard The Fox, learn the first half of The Lambton Worm, learn the Alleluias at the end of the Dering, be cheerful throughout, remind someone to take our photo through the wall of windows pre-rehearsal, record a minute of us for this fade-in. And by Jiminy jingo, all the above was achieved….except for the last of these during which minute the machine ran out of puff and only managed 18.45 seconds. Poor thing had also had an energy-sapping Sunday.


February 21st
This is the sort of day you want, eh? Breakfast with Camms; famous, creative, thoughtful people I admire greatly recommending my February Fade-ins on Twitter; four busy, busy workshops at the Hepworth full of families tackling the world premiere and then three more versions of “The Laughing Trombonist” and composing music to go with it; lots of laughter and applause; completely exhausting and exhilarating; wonderful volunteer and friend Leslie helping and encouraging; three-hour drive home but no idiot drivers on any of my roads; Radio 3 for company – “Words and Music” is one of my absolute favourites; late tea and telly with Jamie. This is part of the 3rd performance of the day and the pic was taken by Pablo’s Dad of some of that group. You can see me with the trombonist himself by my left ear!


February 20th
Today I went to Wakefield with Michael to have another look at Martin Parr’s photos before tomorrow’s workshops. We searched for and photographed laughter. Tomorrow’s workshops will be all about laughing music. Michael struck a pose in Gallery 2 inspired by a nearby sculpture. We also popped into the Cathedral and miraculously bumped into Tracey, the only person I actually know from there and we chatted about the new workshops coming up in June. This is one of my Hepworth songs. I did record some sound effects, but on returning to Worksop I discovered that I’d forgotten a vital piece of my sound equipment, so can’t share that with you.


February 19th
Today I have discovered no new fascinating historical facts, composed no music, marvelled at nothing except the impatiently ludicrous ways some people behave in traffic jams, dodging from lane to lane in a futile attempt to get them wherever one car earlier than they would have if they’d sat tight. I am now in Worksop with all my musical stuff, one step closer to Sunday’s Musical Sculptures in Wakefield. I am now with three quarters of the other Camms and there is cake, so all is now well. These are the sycamores back home with the sound of a load of 17th century prisoners walking past them, down the North Road to the Bridge.


February 18th
I went to St. Michael’s today to see how many multiplications of myself I could fit on the pews, so I can report back on audience capacity for our Bridge Singers concert on May 7th. I encountered there lovely Carol who is one of said choir and we were very pleased to see each other and chatted happily. I could if I needed to, fit about 170 of myself on the pews, not including the front row and not including the chairs which could be placed behind the glass screen in the communal area. These are the well-turned calves of St. Michael himself, and this is the latest recording of the choir singing about him from last Monday – also pretty well-turned.


February 17th
There grow inside my head
on the Felton Road
three trees:……
words by Tony Williams, music by Cheryl Camm
It’s the beginning of the song, which may now be called “Three Sycamores”, but may not….


February 16th
One of the great things about this composery life I’m now living is that the main thing that diverts me from my composing tasks is another composing task. So today I have set my Oliver Cromwell/Angel Inn/Three Sycamores obsession aside and replaced it with a one-day Martin-Parr-workshop-preparation fest. This has involved watching as many videos of him, listening to as many recordings of him, studying as many of his photos as I can find, then considering carefully last week’s reconnaissance trip to the Hepworth in Wakefield and writing a song for the visiting families to learn and compose around, this coming Sunday. Did it. So I give you the first verse of “The Laughing Trombonist”. There is another verse and options for the writing of further ones. Composer.
I went to the Hepworth to see Martin’s photos,
Thinking we’d croon on the rhubarb.
Inspired by the tarts and the man with the stare,
And the candles that flickered so pinkly,
I thought that I’d cracked it, so went on my way.
But turning the corner my thoughts went astray.
Now there’s only one photo my notes want to play:
It’s the one with the laughing trombonist.


February 15th
Today I have properly composed music for the new song. I tried some of it out at Bridge Singers tonight, but forgot to press “record” as I had planned to do. It sounded not bad. Richard thinks it’s going to be very avant garde – there were glissandos and clashes in the bit we sang. Tony’s poem lends itself to that sort of thing though so I think I’ll carry on in that dramatic vein at least for the opening. Meanwhile, we have now learned all of the Anerio and it’s going to sound stunning at our concert on May 7th. We also got to grips with the verse of Down By The Old Mill Stream. There is a mill in Felton and another in Thirston so it fits in perfectly with our theme! It’s a bit lusty, I feel, but refinement will now follow on merrily from correctness, I have determined! As well as forgetting to press record, I forgot to take pictures, so this is tomorrow’s sunrise up at the sycamores!


February 14th
It snowed today. …settled and everything….then the sun came out and most melted. In September 1650 it did not snow, but it did rain. This is an extract from a letter of Sir Arthur Haselrigge, Governer of Newcastle at the time, which continues our story a little. The music is from my Cantate Domino and performed by Rock Festival Choir, 2007.


February 13th
Saturday – a day off for provision procurement, rugby on the telly, a stroll up the hill in the northerly, and oh well a bit of sycamore research and some lyric writing for the glass song.


February 12th
Such a brilliantly inspiring day. Ethereal progress on my new song, skyping with Australians, a wonderful visit with lovely Carol and Richard to Felton Park to see the restored 19th century greenhouse there, ideas for new lyrics to Magical Glass and also for a new song, laughter and chatting with the owners – our neighbours – who were excited at the prospect of the songs, a new mini-song for counting and warm-ups (They Kangled On All Night) inspired by the stories of The Old Angel across the bridge, ideas for the new Hepworth workshops, strange but tasty pork for lunch, a couple of hours catching up on a few radio podcasts. I forgot to take any pictures of the greenhouse, so here’s one of the stairwell and lift shaft at The Tetley in Leeds. I was there on Tuesday!


February 11th
Here is Durham Cathedral from the train with a fragment of my Durham Cathedral song “Aves Beati Cuthberti” as performed by Rock Festival Choir in 2006, and a little more of the aftermath of the Battle Of Dunbar. Elsewhere, I’ve been working with the delightful Wooler Silver Singers this morning, responded to a massive load of choir and workshop emails that came in during my absence and been to Longhoughton for Lionheart Harmony merriment. The new song is also brewing nicely….thanks for asking 🙂


February 10th
I was travelling back home on the train this evening. The sun was setting initially like here in South Yorkshire, then it was dark. The moon was a “slim curved crook” as Langston Hughes once wrote. You can see the reflection of my carriage starting to form in the window gloaming. For the remainder of my journey I played “Catch The Moon” as it darted between buildings and trees, sometimes swooping forwards into Coach D and sometimes back into First Class. It nestled for a while in the open-to-the-world cleavage of the woman in yellow across the aisle and for a considerable length of time on the fold-away tray of Comic Man behind her. As we hovered over the Tyne waiting for a platform to become available I saw its fat reflection in the ripples. It was run over by a double-decker bus heading into Gateshead along the underwater Redheugh Bridge. Here is the end of my song “The Moon”.


February 9th
Today I’m off to look at the Martin Parr exhibition at the Hepworth Wakefield so that I can prepare my next workshops, to The Tetley in Leeds for a meeting about my workshops there in June, and to Worksop to see lovely Michael for his birthday. I shall be taking Tony’s poem with me to ponder on the trains, so don’t think I’ve forgotten about my mission. Here’s a bit more info about St. Michael’s Church in Felton and a bit more of The Bridge Singers in rehearsal. This photo of the church contains a lot of windows some of which are reflections and some of which are not.


February 8th.
Today I made a reconnaissance trip to St. Michael’s Church in Felton. This is where The Bridge Singers’ May concert “Bridges, Rivers and Other Village Friends” will be held. I took this photo of St. Michael with the sun streaming through the windows. We’re going to be singing a few anthems and chorales relating to St. Michael in that concert seeing as he is our village friend. Here’s the choir rehearsing Anerio’s Factum Est Silentium. I also received a poem from the wonderful poet Tony Williams which I shall be using in my new song.


February 7th
This is a contemporary map of the Battle of Dunbar from 1650. 5000 Scottish prisoners were marched back down south to Newcastle and then Durham after this battle. They must have come through Felton and Thirston as that was the main north road at the time. That’s what I’m imagining anyway.


February 6th
I’ve been slightly distracted from my new song today by a visit to Newcastle with a mighty list of quirky shopping, a spot of Dad’s Army at the Tyneside Cinema and an arrangement I’ve been crafting of a 19th century Coquet fishing song for the lower voices of The Bridge Singers. Here’s the first verse, along with a couple of fishermen espied in the Coquet from Weldon Bridge which is a little upstream of here.
The snaws are gone frae haugh and hill,
An’ Coquet’s streams rin merrily;
An’ mony a troutie we will kill,
If thou’ll but gang an’ fish wi’ me;
I’ve bought a creel, I’ve bought a gad,
Brass wheel an’ line, and tackle rare;
We’ll wile the skeggar frae his hand,
An’ pou him out wi’ heuk and hair.


February 5th.
I found some old postcards of the village today. This one features The Old Angel before the new bridge was built with more neighbours on its river-side than these days! I’ve found out more about hedgehogs today as well. Off to sing with Rock Festival Choir​ tonight which is a happy prospect. I’ve been offered two lots of work this week too, and today The Bridge Singers​ was invited for its first gig!


February 4th.
Today I’ve been working on my repeating patterns a bit more, reading about the history of the North Road in Northumberland, and found a couple of anecdotes about this house with the plaque “Ye Old Angle”. I have also been studying the “Coquetdale Fishing Songs” and been arranging one for the gentlemen choristers. It’s the Coquet you can hear in the background.


February 3rd.
Today, I’ve been pfaffing on with repeating patterns and also went for a walk up the north road, like Oliver Cromwell did, and met this sing-songy robin.


February 2nd.
The new song I’m going to compose for The Bridge Singers during February will be inspired by the plaque on the house next to my head on this photo.


February 1st.
I’m going to compose a new song during February for The Bridge Singers’ concert in May.

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One Response to “February Fade-Ins: The Plaque On The House”

  1. Ron Day February 15, 2016 at 1:34 am #

    Fantastic Cheryl,
    I’ve always been a history buff and love your stories. Also compliments on your photography. Makes me want to be back there again.
    Ron and Elaine

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