The Golden Room

5 years on … there are plans to revive the Golden Room podcast. Watch this space!

The Bardic Academic

Contributors to The Golden Room gather on the steps of the Stroud Subscription Rooms, 26 July 2014 by Ray Cranham Contributors to The Golden Room gather on the steps of the Stroud Subscription Rooms, 26 July 2014 by Ray Cranham

On the 24th June, 1914, two days before the birth of Laurie Lee, a famous literary gathering took place in Gloucestershire. Just outside the village of Dymock, a group of friends met at The Old Nail Shop – the home of Wilfrid Gibson and his wife. Also present were fellow writers Lascelles Abercrombie, Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas, and Robert Frost. There they shared their poetry, their words, their wit and wisdom and dreams. They went on to inspire each other to write some of the best-loved poems in the English language (‘Adlestrop’, ‘The Road Not Taken’, ‘The Soldier’ among others), many of which first saw light in their self-published anthology, New Numbers. They became known, years later, as The Dymock Poets. That first night was immortalised by Gibson…

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The Moon as Muse

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I have long been fascinated by the moon. It has inspired many poems by writers over the centuries, and looking back through my own work, I realise I have written a fair few myself…

Here’s one I wrote during a long walk – the West Highland Way – after a particularly memorable wild camping pitch.

 

Full Moon, Bridge of Orchy
All is still
after a twenty miles of rain
as fierce as the Battle of Ardrigh
falling like swords into a lochan.

The seething shadows
making it impossible to linger.
Up here, the air bites you.

But on arrival, the errant sun
breaks the spell like a knight
making a dramatic entrance.

A dizzying stillness after a day’s march,
an ale in the bar, afterglow of achievement,
ramblers’ banter, measuring our folly
in tall tales, modest boasts, blisters.

Wild pitch by the knuckle of bridge.
Making my way on the Way.

Here I make stance,
a road-weary drover,
numb limbs cooling like cattle
cropping the sward.

The river sings its perpetual song –
a complex skein of sound.
Countless rivulets negotiate
the tongue of rock,
the sounding chamber of these hills,
the twin peaks of bard-praised Beinn Dorain
and Beinn an Dòthaidh.

A cry of nature in the crease of the night.

The July moon illumines
a Samuel Palmer landscape.
Peace, deep as peat,
settles.

 

From The Immanent Moment by Kevan Manwaring from Awen

Thread of Gold

Rosemary Duxbury & Jay Ramsay

Jay and Rosemary in the early 90s. Photography by Carole Bruce

Thread of Gold:

Poetry of Jay Ramsay

Music of Rosemary Duxbury

 

Review  & interview by Kevan Manwaring

Rosemary Duxbury is a remarkable musician based in Leicester. A BFI and BAFTA Crew member, she has collaborated with many talented people including film-makers, dancers, and artists. Recently, she re-released a recording she made with the late poet Jay Ramsay in the early Nineties, which set some of his poems to music as well as including her own instrumental compositions.  She felt compelled to re-issue it this year in memory of Jay, who died in December. A community celebration of his life took place in his long-term home of Stroud, Gloucestershire, in May – where she launched the CD and performed a couple of tracks. ‘Thread of Gold’ has 10 tracks that skilfully weave together Jay’s poetry and Rosemary’s music like two skeins. Sometimes we hear the poet’s voice, naked and sonorous; sometimes Rosemary’s sublime music; and sometimes the two unite in alchemical fusion.  A viola soars like a bird over the sweeping piano landscape – as though Vaughan Williams had met Keith Jarrett on some paradisal island. The effect is elegiac, meditative, and soothing. Jay’s voice is full of the incantatory charge he was known for, but it is taken to another level by the brilliant singer Chloe Goodchild in ‘I, John’, and soprano Julie Moffat works her own magic on ‘Songs of the Mysterious’, recorded in Leicester Cathedral. It is a paean to life’s deep beauty and sublime transcendence.

An interview with Rosemary Duxbury

by Kevan Manwaring

So, first of all, could you say a little about yourself? What’s your background and how did you get to this point in time and space?

Growing up in the village of Quorn, Leicestershire, I studied piano with composer John Brydson and later with concert pianist Marlene Fleet, and was a violinist in the Leicestershire School of Music. After studying Music and Inter-Arts at Bretton Hall College, Leeds University, I continued postgraduate violin studies with Celia Davies MBE. An innate interest in spiritual and musical exploration led to composition, something which came naturally to me. Having gained a distinction for my MA in Professional Media Composition (Chichester University), I now write both classical concert music and music for media and film.

You have a new album out – ‘Thread of Gold’ – can you tell us about that, how it came to be, and your connection with Jay Ramsay?

I first met Jay when he attended one of my concerts at Burgh House, Hampstead, London, in 1990. Moved by my piece, Reverie (for viola & piano), Jay asked me to select some his poems to set to music, immediately posting me all of his poetry books. I recognised a kindred spirit, and we started to meet regularly, putting performances together, and sharing ideas further in Stoneygate, Leicester and Upper Holcombe, Gloucestershire. ‘Thread of Gold ‘ was subsequently created as a limited edition cassette to celebrate our collaboration. It was launched at ‘Mirrors of Grace’, an evening of music & poetry at St James, Piccadilly, London on 25th May 1992. With Jay’s recent passing I decided to re-release the album on CD in his memory.

So, first of all, could you say a little about yourself? What’s your background and how did you get to this point in time and space?

Growing up in the village of Quorn, Leicestershire, I studied piano with composer John Brydson and later with concert pianist Marlene Fleet, and was a violinist in the Leicestershire School of Music. After studying Music and Inter-Arts at Bretton Hall College, Leeds University, I continued postgraduate violin studies with Celia Davies MBE. An innate interest in spiritual and musical exploration led to composition, something which came naturally to me. Having gained a distinction for my MA in Professional Media Composition (Chichester University), I now write both classical concert music and music for media and film.

You have a new album out – ‘Thread of Gold’ – can you tell us about that, how it came to be, and your connection with Jay Ramsay?

I first met Jay when he attended one of my concerts at Burgh House, Hampstead, London, in 1990. Moved by my piece, Reverie (for viola & piano), Jay asked me to select some his poems to set to music, immediately posting me all of his poetry books. I recognised a kindred spirit, and we started to meet regularly, putting performances together, and sharing ideas further in Stoneygate, Leicester and Upper Holcombe, Gloucestershire. ‘Thread of Gold ‘ was subsequently created as a limited edition cassette to celebrate our collaboration. It was launched at ‘Mirrors of Grace’, an evening of music & poetry at St James, Piccadilly, London on 25th May 1992. With Jay’s recent passing I decided to re-release the album on CD in his memory.

Have you been involved in other artistic collaborations?

I have had an interest in the shared relationship of different art forms from early on. I am fascinated by the process of transcending form to access the source of inspiration, and finding the heart of the work. Through Jay, as well as writing songs for the concert repertoire, I also wrote music for the film of his poem,“Adam’s Song” (dir. Mark French). I have set the work of several other poets including Alan Rycroft, Marion Fawlk and Diana Durham, and enjoy working with film directors, photographers, choreographers and artists.

I also love when other artists choose my music to be creative with. Former world professional ice skating champion Lorna Brown has choreographed my music in Los Angeles and Swiss director Roelof Overmeer used my piano compositions in his theatre work in Lausanne. Photographer, Annette Horn regularly chooses my music to accompany her photographic shows and has made a series of photographic films inspired by my compositions. A highlight of our collaboration was with pianist Patricia Siffert and dancer Oliver Essigmann, in a production called “Mirrors of Light”, premiered at the renowned Reitstadl Concert Hall in Neumarkt, Germany to packed audiences.

Who are your inspirations, creatively, critically, and in life, generally?

Musically I feel I’m part of a classical lineage, but I’ve also been inspired by ECM jazz artists such as Jan Garbarek and Keith Jarrett for melody beyond boundaries. Other influences include Harold Budd and his album ‘The Pearl’ which directly inspired some of my classical piano music, and Arvo Part and John Tavener for establishing a sacred minimalist style, a school I feel I belong to. I love being part of a community of composers both living and those who have gone before, yet all working together with ‘Sound’ which I understand to be a flowing and evolving ‘life force’. Generally I am inspired by people who I consider to be Masters of their subject, and those who demonstrate kindness and heart-centred living.

What’s on the horizon for you? Any exciting plans or projects? Performances or commissions?

I have several composition ideas that I’m eager to write. I’m keen to set more poetry to music – I’d like to try the combination of soprano and cello. I also have sketches for a chamber piece and am drawn to writing for a Pierrot Ensemble (cello, clarinet, flue and violin). So if someone would like to commission either of these compositions, they will get written sooner rather than later! I’m delighted the viola piece Reverie that I mentioned earlier is being presented in Biel, Switzerland this summer, and I’ve just heard that my choral setting of Jay’s poem Angel Whisper is to be performed by the Leicestershire Chorale (conductor: Tom Williams) in early 2020. Since completing my MA in Film Scoring, and being a current member of the BFI Network & BAFTA Crew 2019, my attention is also on music for film right now.

If you could sum up your ethos, your approach, or ‘mission statement’ what would it be? What key message are you trying to get across?

“For me, composing is an honouring of the creative spirit, an awakening and expression of an inner landscape of understanding”. The more I compose, the more I find myself observing what is being written and the more the compositions are revealing inner truths to me, inner landscapes of understandings beyond words, and awakening me to higher realities. My wish is that the composition becomes a structure that can then be a vehicle for the listener to go to their own place within, in order to travel to and perceive places of beauty and truths in one’s own consciousness, and thus be uplifted and inspired by the experience. One of my favourite quotes is: “Once an artist creates a true structure, then divine love can pour into it and make it a thing of great beauty” (Harold Klemp)

Any final advice to those starting out creatively?

 Take time to ‘know thyself’. I’m a great believer in exploring the inner self, to find one’s source of creativity. Dive into self enquiry, ask deeper questions, ask how can I go further? Answers are often within. Study how Master artists have tapped into their creativity, their tips may unlock your own talents. Contemplation, journaling, dream study, improvisation have all helped me. The more you know your true Self the more you uncover what it is you personally have to offer, you then have something to genuinely say, and your work can become authentic and individual. Secondly, the creativity that comes through needs a good vehicle, so continually practice and study to refine one’s skills, explore and listen, and immerse yourself in your chosen art form. Thirdly, ‘Be true to yourself’. Follow your own path and intuition. Trust what comes through, where your inner guidance takes you. It is an amazing force which can reveal content that has an innate intelligence, naturally creating form and can take one on a truly inspiring journey.

 

Jay Ramsay&RosemaryDuxbury copy 2

‘Thread of Gold’ is released by Charasound

www.charasound.com

For Jay’s poetry go to Awen Publications

www.awenpublications.co.uk

Wild Church

Lines Composed by Ravenseat Farm

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The day is almost too beautiful to behold.

Light cuts across beck and field

with their lazy lozenges of hard graft

–walls built by callused hand, with their snicket

gates not designed for

hikers laden with full rucksacks,

or full English girths.

Profligate, hues reveal themselves.

Slabs laid like Kendal mint cake,

the Swale, running to black,

the mead, gold and green.

A way of kings.

Low road or high –

one is lifted up,

a shepherd’s fiefdom to survey

with its unco-operative locals.

And each barn tells a tale.

The day hollers for joy –

sings, it is good to be alive.

Here,

in this wild church.

 

Kevan Manwaring, 17 June, 2019.

 

Jupiter the Great and the Little Women

Once there was a great king

…at least he was great in terms of his size and ego. He was known by many names but let’s call him Jupiter. King of the Gods (he acted like a petulant god so hell he must be!) Jupiter had usurped his father, Saturn (some said killed, but those voices were hushed up) from the throne, and lorded it over all, the most important man in the solar system, galaxy, universe – at least he liked to think so. He had a pet eagle, a shield called Aegis. Shiny thunderbolts made by his son, Vulcan. But he was particularly proud of his swirling orange hair – he thought it made him irresistible to women.

giuseppe-cades-juno-discovers-jupiter-with-io

Giuseppe Cades, Juno discovers Jupiter with Io

He loved the women, or the girls, as he liked to call them. He like to talk to them, he liked to touch them, and loved it when they stroked his … ego. But, stop right there – he had a wife, lest we forget – Queen of the Pantheon to his King, her name – Juno. Jupiter thought her oblivious of his shenanigans, but on the contrary, she knew alright, and kept a close watch on him.

He loved to conceal his infidelities in clouds of mist – sometimes he descended on unsuspecting nymphs in the form of a golden shower – but Juno was able to pierce through his miasma.

One day Jupiter having developed a soft spot for a beautiful young nymph called Io, went a-calling, hoping for a bit of frolicking. He wooed her, her fondled her – thinking he was the one doing the seducing … But his wife was swift to follow and nearly caught them at it – but he was quick. He turned Io into a cow. ‘Husband! Husband! What are you up to!’ Jupiter feigned innocence. ‘I’m trying to get back to nature. I’ve been too high and mighty. I wanted to shed the trappings of power and taste the life of a cow-herd. And look at this lovely heifer. Her beautiful udders. Her smooth horns. Her big dark eyes. The swish of her tail.’

Juno, this time accepted these alternative facts, though in her heart she knew she’d been deceived. So she left.

Another day, Jupiter’s eye fell upon another lovely nymph, skin like alabaster, called Europa. She refused his advances, and so he came to her in the form of a bull – and carried her off to have his wicked way with her. Some say to Crete, some say to a crate.

But Jupiter’s good luck ran out one day when he was cosying up to another nymph called Callisto. Juno appeared, and this time there was no hiding – her husband just shrugged ‘What can I say. She was a five!’ – In her wrath Juno turned Callisto into a bear, and stormed off.

Finally Jupiter took a shine to a handsome young lad from Troy called Ganymede – he had if nothing else Catholic tastes. The lad was a bit reluctant to accept the advances of the horny old goat, I don’t know why. And so Jupiter descended upon him in the form of an eagle and carried him off to the stars to be his cup-bearer, or so he says.

Well, Juno had had enough. She decided to teach her pathetic husband a lesson. Instead of confronting her husband directly, which she knew would be pointless. He was so self-deceiving he wouldn’t realise he’d done anything wrong. So she went to Io, Europa, Callisto and Ganymede. They were frightened when they realised who she was. But she said, ‘I’m not angry with you, only my stupid husband – are you happy being treated this way?’ They all felt they had been wronged – but at the time it was hard not to be swept along by Jupiter’s magnetic personality. They agreed to help teach the king a lesson. Yes, he had thunderbolts – but Juno made some powerful allies.

She recruited Venus and Mercury to her cause – love and eloquence. War-like Mars, with his buzz-cut and PTSD twitch, was Jupiter’s right-hand man, so no luck there. Saturn certainly had a bone to pick, but was bit of a deadweight. Neptune, who ruled the sea, and Pluto who ruled the dead, also joined their cause. Together, led by Juno, they caused chaos in the heavens, disrupting the cycles and orbits, with their non-violent direct action, until enough was enough!

The allies confronted the bully – who turned out to be nothing more than a gas giant. All bluster. As they confronted him with his misdemeanours and crimes, he started to shrink. He spewed out toxic cloud in his defence, but got smaller and smaller. One by one his layers of deceit were stripped away, until there were none left – and what did they find behind it all? A Little Boy sitting on a rock, sulking, sticking out his bottom lip. He tried to throw his thunderbolts, but they were like sparklers now. He had a toy shield and stuffed bird. So much for Jupiter the Great.

After that Juno and the ‘girls’ took over running the Heavens and they did a far, far better job of things. The Solar System became a lot more peaceful, pleasant and respectful place to live.

Jupiter was given a nanny and a nice big play pen, where he could build imaginary walls all day long without causing any harm.

The End

 Kevan Manwaring © 2017-01-27

Feel free to use this story to protest against Trump’s outrageous abuses of his presidency, the US Constitution and human rights. Bullies must be stood up. The vulnerable must be defended. Raise awareness. Resistance is fertile.

For tips on Storytelling Techniques, check out The Bardic Handbook: the complete manual for the 21st century bard, by Kevan Manwaring, Gothic Image 2016; or Storytelling for a Greener World, Gersie et al, Hawthorn Press, 2015

If you are interested in the real Jupiter and its amazing moons then check out my science fiction novel, Black Box, forthcoming from Unbound. You can be part of the story by being a book-patron and receive not only a personalised copy but also fabulous rewards! https://unbound.com/books/black-box/

The Dark and the Light

 

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Nine Standards Rigg, K. Manwaring 2019

Dark is My Shadow

 

Dark is the shadow

that passes over the fields

like radar.

Dark is the beck,

foaming like Theakstons

with phosphates.

Dark is the peat hag,

the loam of millennia

dripping and deceptive.

And dark is my shadow

carried before me like

a wet rucksack.

Yet all is held by the light,

which embraces each shadow

with the whole of life.

 

Kevan Manwaring, 17 June,

crossing Nine Standards Rigg

 

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Yorkshire Dales, K. Manwaring, 2019

 

Limelight

 

Glint of sunlight on limestone wall,

a line of white against

the deep green –

rough edge rhyming

with the ragged fleece

of ewe and lambs

in their brand new coats.

This is high dry country

where dramas of light

and dark are played out

in silent operas

of clouds and hills.

The audience response,

the slightest sussuration,

a bleat and a peewit’s

tralee.

 

Kevan Manwaring, 18 June

Kirkby Stephen to Shap

 

The Lark Ascending – a review

Image result for The Lark Ascending King

This recently published celebration of ‘music of the British landscape’ is a perfect companion for perambulations in the countryside, as I found, taking it with me (in e-book format) on a long-distance hike recently in the north of Britain. Ostensibly inspired by King’s penchant for going for a rural stroll with an evocative personal soundtrack piped to his ear-pods, this jackdaw’s nest of a book does read at times like someone’s music collection on shuffle, flipping from Vaughan Williams to the Aphex Twins. It does offer a broad and effective introduction to the subject, discussing diverse iterations of the nation’s musical landscape – from the canonical to the counter cultural. Not surprisingly, it discusses Vaughan William’s perennial classic in some depth, but provides a wider context – both of the musical traditions that informed it, and the socio-historical context. It does not shirk away from the disturbing nationalist strain in the direction such evocations of place and paeans of ‘national character’ took in the Twentieth Century, and the chapters on Britain’s own Fascist movements (‘Sun Awareness’; ‘The Wide World’s Drift’), such as the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift with its (un)healthy obsession on youth, vigorous physical exercise, discipline, and dodgy dogma is particularly resonant in the light of the current resurgence of such loathsome ideology. However it strikes a bum note in equating the crypto-Fascist campfire songs with the sentiment of 60s and 70s English folk – to mention Fairport Convention or Nick Drake in the same paragraph as these English Wandervogel is creating a laboured moral equivalence. Another weakness of the text is in the actual quality of the prose, which is sometimes plodding. Considering the main subject of the book it feels surprisingly cloth-eared in its use of language, not that one expects a non-fiction book to be overtly lyrical, but when the material is predominantly about the affect of music in the landscape, a more euphonic register would at times not have gone amiss. At worst, this results in tedious sections about the Common Agricultural Policy and the like, which King insists on going into in great detail; at best, this reportage style results in some powerfully restrained and lucid accounts of the crushing of the ‘Peace Convoy’ in the mid-80s and the rise of the Rave scene, culminating in Castlemorton in the early 90s. The chapter on the Greenham Common Peace Camp stands out as an exceptional piece of writing, charting an important piece of social history in a sensitive way. The book is undoubtedly a very subjective representation of the ‘music of the British landscape’, but none the worse for that. King is making no claims here about being authoritative or comprehensive in his survey – it is a cross-section of his personal tastes and interests. In as much as it may lack the scope or prose of analogous works like The Ballad of Britain by Will Hodgkinson, or  Electric Eden by Rob Young, The Lark Ascending is an affectionate and singular addition to this subgenre of musical genius loci. Well worth a stroll with, and it will certainly attune you to the musical dimensions of the landscape, and the landscapes of music.

The Lark Ascending: the music of the British landscape is published by Faber and Faber.

Kevan Manwaring © 2019