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  Songwriting and Composition Projects                                             


  SOUS   LES  POMMIERS  2014    


                                      Sous Les Pommiers at Caen Memorial                     photo  Didier Lelievre

      Sous Les Pommiers was a project between Portsmouth and Caen to mark the 70th anniversary of the D Day Landings.The first performances took place in Portsmouth in February, when four players from l'Orchestre Regional de Basse-Normandie joined the Resonate Strings, BSO guest musicians and pupils from Flying Bull School, Portsmouth,who were  conducted by Maxime Tortelier to perform my newly commissioned work Sous Les Pommiers  the text of which I drew from the archives of the Caen Memorial, Portsmouth museum, and testimonies from people of that time. 

The final part of the project took place in October 2014 when the BSO Resonate Strings and BSO guest musicians travelled to Caen to give the French premiere of Sous Les Pommiers with musicians of l'Orchestre Regional de Basse-Normandie and pupils from Caen and Portsmouth schools, conducted by Sebastien Boin.







                                                 On a bright day in June 2012  the Freedance Choir and BSO musicians climbed the hill at Abbotsbury to St Catherines Chapel....   a place of pilgrimage of old, that still has a sand floor and a wonderful sound, with the best reverb ever! People brought their picnics and gazed out over the wonderful coastline, while listening to the songs of Jurassic Journey coming from the chapel.  A dream come true for me!


We went on to perform in unusual places in Dorset, including St Georges Church on the top of Portland...   here is a review


Puffins on Portland and musical miners

 Blackmore Vale Magazine  |  Posted: March 15, 2013

"PORTLAND on a wet, foggy night in March might not have been the obvious location for a county-wide musical celebration and a rapturous response, but that's what the audience at the church of St James at Reforne enjoyed last Friday night.

It was the finale of a partnership between Artsreach and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in which Dorset-based composer Sammy Hurden joined a poet, a sculptor and members of the BSO to explore the Jurassic Coast. Many of the results were seen and heard last summer, in time for the Olympic sailing events' arrival in Weymouth.

But last Friday's concert was the culmination of the project, bringing together the orchestra's Resonate Strings (a member of each of the string sections) with the Freedance Choir, members of Island Voices, the Crossways Handbell Ringers and other musicians to perform the "Jurassic" work Water and Stone and a selection of other music, climaxing in a second performance of Hurden's recently-composed piece The Hare and the Harp.

An audience of 215 joined 10 musicians and 50 singers on the dank night for a magical and spectacular climax to a hugely successful collaborative project. Its effects will be long lasting - the sort of "legacy" that the Olympics sought - as the Churches Conservation Trust (which administers St George's) hopes to make much greater use of the beautiful Georgian building in the future, and the choirs set up by Sammy during the project will continue singing together.

Apart from Stephen McNeff's A Dorset Round, composed for a primary school choir as part of the project, the rest of the music came from Sammy Hurden, evoking the spirit of the region from the "Kenneth Williams-like" puffins to the miners at Beer, from mermaids to songs of the French sailors and jazz on the beach.

It was a wonderful night, and congratulations to everyone involved, especially to Sammy Hurden, who as always deflected the glory onto her singers and musicians. GP-W "


                   JURASSIC JOURNEY 2010-12



                                                                                                     photo  Ben Osborne



  I have lived near the Jurassic coast for many years and been drawn into this incredible landscape. So when I was asked to write music for Ben Osborne's wonderful photography on the show Jurassic Journey, in collaboration with sculptor Lal Hitchcock and poet Matt Harvey, I couldn't imagine anything I'd rather do!

 Before I began to write, I recorded sounds of the coast...chased ravens on a beautiful bitter sunrise on the top of Portland...captured the downward draw of pebbles at Deadmans Cove...shivered in the Caves at Beer, listening to 300 year old drops of water as they landed... and one cold early morning climbed the hill to Abbotsbury Chapel to record Timeless.

 One day in July we walked to Dancing Ledge with musicians and climbers, to see if it was possible to climb to live music... It was a magical day surrounded by mist and sea and birds.

The place has over 90 different names for different climbs and I used those to write Freedance on Dancing Ledge.Given that it is so-called because the size of a ballroom has been qaurried from there, it had to be a waltz, and the puffin calls were added as it is one of their rare nesting places. 

We spent time underground in the caves at Beer, which has been quarried for 2000 years... cold and damp and dark... in the sounds recorded there I thought I could hear the voices of ghosts from the past...stone deaf.. stone cold... 

There is still so much about this beautiful coastline for me to discover... this music is my journey so far.




                 The original stone carving lent by Dorchester Museum for the occasion



When I lived near Powerstock, Dorset,  I heard about a stone carving of a hare playing a harp in Dorchester Museum believed to have come from Wytherstone Chapel. I decided to use it as inspiration for the music.And it took me on a journey of Hare mythology and folklore. Johnny Boden kindly sponsored me to write and the concert was organised by BSO and Artsreach.

In Celtic times the hare was associated with the goddess Eostre and her white hare would lay coloured eggs…from which has come Easter and the Easter Bunny! In Christian times they were viewed less favourably and called witch-hares.

Very often, while driving the lanes at night, a hare would run before the car. I'd stop and turn out the lights to give him time to hide. But always when I turned the lights on again, he would still be there…wanting to run in the light!

I took old sayings for the first song and some of the names of hares which I found in Seamus Heaneys translation of an anonymous middle English poem.

 We had the first performance on a rainy November night in a packed out Powerstock Church, with The Freedance Choir , BSO strings, Jim Dvorak on trumpet and Ben Stephens on percussion. And I incorporated Church Bells, so the whole piece was built around the key of the bells!  Here it is....



                                                  filmed by David Rogers




     THE CALLING  2008





      A massed choir of 500 singers from schools in Somerset came together to sing my piece The Calling for the Last night of the Schools proms at The Royal Albert Hall.  It was an incredible experience to hear them sing my music in such a spectacular setting!