A film has been made which describes the compositional process here: https://youtu.be/5Oo7b2BRVP4
3 sound samples - conductor triggers live via qLab or similar
Children’s choir (2 parts)
c. 10 mins
It was a real honour to be commissioned by The Atkinson, Southport to write a piece entitled Chorus of the Coast. My music is often concerned with transcribing and exploring sounds of birdsong so the chance to get to know the Sefton coastline with its community groups, supported by the specialist knowledge of Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership Scheme and RSPB, was a wonderful opportunity.
I worked with community groups to explore the local coastline, find sounds and sights that would inspire motifs, rhythms, lyrics and ideas for the piece. We looked at the textures, shapes, smells, sounds and how these might be turned into a piece of music. We wrote song lyrics, adverts for our coastline and postcards from the Iron Men to their creator Anthony Gormly! We chose the notes that would represent the surprisingly vicious robin and the spectacular flocks of Pink footed geese. We found the chords that would create the atmosphere for the pine forest, the melody that represents the huge ships and the Klezmer mode that best suited the dramatic rise and fall of the waves. We found fascinating juxtaposition of real urban life and noise up close with nature: the Elvis karaoke cafe and the evocative plop of water washing up on the decking. I consolidated the lyrics all the groups composed:
Terns turn, everything is moving
Rush of wings, rush of wings, splash of water Singing birds, thrashing waves
Marram grass, marram grass, clutches the golden dunes
The sea batters them smooth.
Changing colour, multi-coloured ocean Dark, dark on storm, bright with light
￼Cold Irish waves, heavy, grind and crash Ancient ships, ancient ships, on the sand bank
Air on your face, feels like a lovely breeze. Huge ships, mistook for clouds. Climb on Iron men!
The sea batters them smooth...
Having gathered this wealth of inspiration I set to work developing and constructing the completed piece. Sounds captured at the take-away vans at Crosby Beach open the work then an oboe solo accompanied by sustained strings bring the audience to a more reflective perspective of the coast. The children’s choir then celebrate the joy and excitement of visiting the beach and bird calls and songs are played by the ensemble.
Sounds captured at Formby pine forest launch the second half of the piece and a dramatic climbing and falling canon show the movement of the waves and dunes. A humorous misunderstanding brought us all to joyful giggles and Curlews will forever be know as Curly Whirlies at St Elizabeth’s. The closing lyrics depict the variety and stories formulated on this glorious coastline.
“Boats, curly whirlies, rats with tails. Pink footed geese, squelchy sand. Bootle organs, squirrels in the attic. This is nature, chorus of the coast”
My thanks to Danielle Clark and The Atkinson for dreaming up this project and for allowing me such creative freedom. Thank you to St Elizabeth’s RC Primary, Formby High School, Music and Wellbeing, Southport (Alzeimer’s Society) and Friends of Kings Gardens - you have been a wonderful inspiration!