1st August 2022: New solo album:
The Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England is finished!

It's 40-minute suite of pieces for organ, piano and voice, composed between May 2021 and June 2022, with motifs and themes re-appearing throughout, and the fantasy that it would be (a little bit like) a performance or service carried on in an empty cathedral. It was written with that in mind - to work in a large reverberant space. (Albeit an illusory space created in the studio.)

Once I finished writing the music in early June 2022 and had no clear idea for a lyric theme, I considered doing wordless singing, as one hears in early music, when for example the "e" of "kyrie" or the "a" of "amen" might be sustained as the only syllable of the melody, for minutes at a time. That didn't feel like the right approach, so I was about to put the whole suite aside until a lyric idea came along, when I chanced upon a book published in 1893: "On The Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England" by one Robert Charles Hope.

Needless to say, if you know even a little about my interests and tastes, this book was right up my street, and it was immediately clear that it was perfect lyric material for the suite. Many of the entries describing a particular spring or well might be just a few sentences long, some quite strange and mysterious, many end with something along the lines of: "This spring has long been forgotten", or had been destroyed by railway, or otherwise long neglected or filled up, which added a certain wistful feeling to it all. (On the other hand, I looked up many of the springs and wells mentioned, and several do still exist.)

It was such a thrill and the perfect material, it took literally just a couple of hours to select the texts to fit the pieces, and set them to the existing melodies. So in early June 2022 I set about to recording - first the piano parts, on our old Challen upright, then the organ, using our circa 1942 Hammond model BC (serial number 38!) and finally the vocals, which was great fun and a good learning experience, as the music is quite minimal, therefore the vocals are very "exposed".

For the three weeks of recording the piano, organ and voice, I really set up the atmosphere in my studio, with ceremonial garb, candles, etc, enhancing the ritualistic feeling I hoped to capture. Understanding of course that this was for my own benefit and enjoyment. In the end, it doesn't matter how it was done, and now it will be for you listeners who choose to listen to it to make of it what you will!

To complete my fantasy of it taking place in an empty cathedral, I made a few early morning trips to the nearby cathedral of St Maurice in Mirepoix, when it was most likely to be devoid of visitors, to record the ambience of the (mostly) empty and always evocative and mysterious space. This recorded ambience runs through the entire album, and on the instruments and voices I used impulse response reverbs from two different large gothic cathedrals.

(Briefly, for those who don't know: an "impulse response" reverb is a way of capturing the acoustic signature or character of a space, and applying it to sounds recorded elsewhere.)

Maggie Thomas, known for among other things her cover art for the Art Bears albums, will do the album art. Release should be around September - October, on my Bandcamp page and on CD from ReR.

So, "what's it like?"...curious as to what a few select others might have to say about that, I sent the finished album to a couple of people, one of whom being the amazing Brian Woodbury, who replied: "The music is extraordinary. It is minimalist. But rich in invention." Thank you Brian, that sums up what I had hoped it was!

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