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Recording evocative works for string orchestral composed by Nigel Clarke along with a commission celebrating WW1 nurse Edith Cavell.
Recording evocative works for string orchestral composed by Nigel Clarke along with a commission celebrating WW1 nurse Edith Cavell.
49 backers pledged £4,058 to help bring this project to life.

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New works for Strings by Nigel Clarke

This unique project brings together new works commissioned by idealistic organisations on either side of the English Channel: Dover Arts Development and Luc Vertommen/Brass Band Buizingen

Music and Words

Nigel Clarke & Malene Skaerved-'Dogger Fisher German Bight'

Nigel Clarke-'The Scarlet Flower'

Prose by Martin Westlake

Writer and composer, Malene Skaerved and Nigel Clarke with Longbow, after the premiere of ‘Dogger, Fisher, German Bight, Humber, Thames, Dover, Wight’. Maison Dieu, Dover 11th 2013.
Writer and composer, Malene Skaerved and Nigel Clarke with Longbow, after the premiere of ‘Dogger, Fisher, German Bight, Humber, Thames, Dover, Wight’. Maison Dieu, Dover 11th 2013.

Performers

Director Violin-Peter Sheppard Skaerved

Flugelhorn- Sébastien Rousseau

Longbow (String Ensemble)

Recording at All Saints Tooting

Engineer-Jonathan Haskell (Astounding Sounds)

Virtuoso Flugelhorn soloist, Sébastien Rousseau
Virtuoso Flugelhorn soloist, Sébastien Rousseau

About the Works:

'Dogger Fisher German Bight'

Dogger Fisher Dover Wight was created by Nigel Clarke and writer Malene Skӕrved as part of the wonderful ‘War and Peace’ Project, funded by Arts Council England, and organised by Dover Arts Development. Here’s an introduction to that project

E W Cocks painting of Blanchard and Jeffries’s balloon drifting over Dover Castle,
E W Cocks painting of Blanchard and Jeffries’s balloon drifting over Dover Castle,

War & Peace: An overview by Nigel Clarke, Peter Sheppard Skӕrved and Malene Skӕrved

Peter Sheppard Skӕrved, Malene Skӕrved and Nigel Clarke began their public work on ‘War and Peace’ with the small presentation at Dover Museum in October 2012, as part of the ‘War & Peace Symposium’. This presentation, and the impact of the other contributors, laid the foundations for an expanding network of writing, composing, and ideas. As is often the case with this kind of work, much of this process of research and discovery remains invisible. Each artist developed an increasingly personal and interwoven relationship with the materials and ideas which were discovered.

Nigel Clarke and Malene Skaerved in discussion at a 'Salon Evening' at the 'White Cliffs Visitors Centre' introducing their work
Nigel Clarke and Malene Skaerved in discussion at a 'Salon Evening' at the 'White Cliffs Visitors Centre' introducing their work

As Malene Skӕrved puts it: “The one thing we knew was that we were clear that none of us wanted to define the project.”

All three artists discovered early on that their field(s) of enquiry and creation should not be defined, not circumscribed or ‘directed’ at any point. “Although we did not articulate this at the time, it was clear that this was explicitly not the way we wanted to work. In this, there is no question that the organic nature of Joanna Jones’s painting was at the back of our minds, and of course, how it related to all of our activities as acts of performance.”

Peter Sheppard Skaerved performing Nigel Clarke in front of one of Joanna Jones's paintings (Photo Miles Umney)
Peter Sheppard Skaerved performing Nigel Clarke in front of one of Joanna Jones's paintings (Photo Miles Umney)

Malene again: “Everyone had a skill. Peter plays, Joanna paints, and Nigel composes. I observe. Sounds and visuals can be experienced without any definition – a painting and a piece can honour without defining. I wanted to create a piece of writing that would do what music and abstract painting can do. I did not want to tell Dover what it was, nor did I really want to say what I thought it was, I wanted to give people a sense of Dover.”

Nigel Clarke and Peter Sheppard Skӕrved have had 20 years of collaboration on ‘site-specific’ workshop/composition projects in the Balkans, US, and Asia. ‘War and Peace’ provided them with a way to move this practice back to the UK.

Malene on how this process worked: “We used the collaboration to dictate what we saw and how we saw. As we walked through Dover and observed the town through its landmarks and history, our group formed a connection with the place and the history. One big mystery for Dover is the Bronze Age boat – it is unique and important, but also hidden and unknown for most people unless they go to Dover. Its use and potential importance is also unknown. To me that was symbolic of the coming and goings through Dover.”

Ideas began to coalesce, not just from the time spent in Dover, but from the artists’ shared and diverse lines of enquiry. These ranged from reading (local, economic, industrial, military history, travellers’ correspondence, myths, even the Domesday Book), through to personal research; the search for sound, for texture, for the weaves of stories that emerged. Areas of activity emerged; issues of identity, transit, and identification. 

Peter, Malene and Nigel present their work at the Dover Museum (October 2012)
Peter, Malene and Nigel present their work at the Dover Museum (October 2012)

Peter writes: “Issues of history, cultural erosion and sedimentation, rose and fell. We were all moved by the richness of the material that we found researching this project.” Initially, the material that emerged from us seemed irreconcilable. Malene produced a series of ‘Fables’, (one of which became the underpinning for Joanna Jones’s painting ‘Lana and Cree’). 

Malene again: “A fairytale is structured, a precise story, but the interpretation is abstract … like a piece of music.” Seeking out common ground, between words and music, between sound and meaning also flowered in the workshops that the artists led in Dover schools. Peter writes: “The children reminded us of the importance of a visceral link between materials, that the post powerful connections are elemental ones, that instinct needed to lie at the heart of what we produced.” These elemental insights offered a way forward for the collaboration.

Peter and Nigel at work in Dover (Photo Miles Umney)
Peter and Nigel at work in Dover (Photo Miles Umney)

Malene again: “Nigel wanted more, something specific – war/peace/nature/industry, but he didn’t want definitions, he wanted a stepping stone. ‘I just want words,’ he kept saying. This proved very useful, working with our initial intention of not defining Dover but rather observing it.”

Nigel and Malene’s dialogue led to the creation of a poem and a piece of music, sharing the same title drawn from the ‘Shipping Forecast’ familiar from the radio. Malene observes, that these works were “…created as a portrait, of our group, and of what we saw - the people, the history, the landmarks, the nature, the past and present.”

Malene and Nigel both felt that: “Our pieces were created side by side. Sometimes we overlapped, but mostly they became our own part of the overall conversation. We each observed how we approached something new, and then used our own knowledge and different backgrounds to confront what was in front of us.” Meanwhile, more links with Joanna Jones’s work emerged as they discover a shared narrative and process in the materiality that fascinates them, the very direct link, for instance, between the ‘chalk in the pockets’through to the choice of pigment, the act of writing and the act of painting.

Finding inspiration in the fabric of the place: an ancient pathway in Dover
Finding inspiration in the fabric of the place: an ancient pathway in Dover

Peter’s role in this was perhaps harder to define at the outset. He notes: “In the creative process, the interpreter’s role is of necessity, evanescent. However, I found a role of counterpointing Malene and Nigel’s discoveries and ideas with my own, looking for ways to communicate the emerging materials, in live and recorded formats, working with both composer and writer ‘at the cliff-face’ looking for sound and meaning.” He also found common cause with travelling artists and musicians who had historically all come through Dover.

Peter improvising in the 'Grand shaft' in Dover
Peter improvising in the 'Grand shaft' in Dover

Something unexpected emerged, which was that Peter became as deeply involved in the performance, the interpretation of the written material (both fables and music), and started to become fascinated by how to best put across their shared and disparate textures, colours and syntax. This began with the performance of one of the Malene’s ‘fables’ ‘The Lady of the Rocks’ at a concert salon evening at Wilton’s Music Hall in the Summer of 2012. He writes: “I needed to find the voice of the presentation of both poem and fables, just as much as I need to find the musical voice, for the concert. This drove the inclusion of very small-scale solos and trios in the final event, as well as the large ensemble works, and the inevitable presentation of the two ‘Dogger Fisher German Bight..’ works as a bi-partite whole, linked by the distinctive sound of surf on the shingle.”

Nigel Clarke and Malene Skaerved in conversation
Nigel Clarke and Malene Skaerved in conversation

Nigel Clarke, Malene Skӕrved and Peter Sheppard Skӕrved each approached the residency from a very personal backgrounds: a Calcutta-born-Kent raised composer who's family live in Belgium , a Danish Born-American educated-London resident writer, London born-incessantly travelling musician. ‘War & Peace’ project has enabled them to explore new territories (real, metaphorical, even metaphysical), discover a new ‘shared ground’ and evolve a collaborative a language from their dialectic, offered in the compositions from Nigel, the fables and poems from Malene, and the performance response from Peter. For all of three of them, 'Dogger Fisher , has offered a new way to site their artistic practices, and opened doors for some fascinating future works and collaborations. But the one thing of which all the participants were powerfully reminded with the impact of the finale event ‘Transit: Pulp Rags’ is that as Nigel posted the day after the event: ‘Art truly is for everyone, as last night proved!’

The handbill for the first performance
The handbill for the first performance

The Scarlet Flower 

Edith Cavell, subject of 'The Scarlet Flower'
Edith Cavell, subject of 'The Scarlet Flower'

An interview published in '4BR'

4BR has been speaking to British Composer Award winner Nigel Clarke after it was announced that he has been commissioned to write an exciting new work for Flugel Horn and String Orchestra. The Scarlet Flower New Concertino to honour nursing heroine Entitled, 'The Scarlet Flower' (Concertino for Flugel Horn & String Orchestra) it is inspired by the story of World War 1 British nurse Edith Cavell’s last hours before being executed by firing squad in October 1915. Cavell had been arrested and sentenced to death after helping 200 British soldiers escape from occupied Belgian territory, although it was acknowledged by both sides of the conflict that she had also helped hundreds of wounded allied and German soldiers without distinction. Clarion call Her famous clarion call: "Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone," are inscribed on her statue in St Martin's Place, near Trafalgar Square in London. The commission has come from conductor Luc Vertommen and Brass Band Buizingen to be premiered by Buizingen’s virtuoso flugel player Sébastien Rousseau accompanied by the British based Longbow String Orchestra directed by Peter Sheppard Skaerved. Deeply honoured Speaking exclusively to 4BR, Nigel said he was both deeply honoured and excited to write the work. "The subject matter and its timing are greatly significant, and I'm always very moved by the story of Edith Cavell’s selfless acts of humanitarianism." He added: "As you imagine, I’m also very excited about this challenging project. How many brass bands would commission their composer to compose a work for another group and genre? It’s a wonderful example of an enlightened artistic endeavour and the ability to think progressively towards other genres of music making." 'The subject matter and its timing are greatly significant, and I'm always very moved by the story of Edith Cavell’s selfless acts of humanitarianism' ~ Nigel Clarke

Peter Sheppard and Nigel Clarke in collaboration

Peter and Nigel at work in the Gobi Desert, XInjiang, China
Peter and Nigel at work in the Gobi Desert, XInjiang, China

 To hear an overview of the many years of Peter and Nigel's collaboration, follow this link for recordings of the works they have created together.http://www.peter-sheppard-skaerved.com/2013/12/nigel-clarke-collaboration-and-inspiration/

Nigel Clarke-Composer 

 Here are some youtube video of some of Nigel's works 

 `Samurai' - (MTSU Wind Ensemble conducted by Nigel Clarke) http://youtu.be/cnfgPEfN7Kg 

 `Storm Surge' (Marinierskapel der Koninklijke Marine (Marine Band of the RoyalNetherlands Navy) under the baton of Major Peter Kleine Schaars during a recording session) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxwfbifrrA4 

`Pernambuco' - (Violin Peter Sheppard Skaerved)-live in Nashville- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLeIh_ivTOY

`Earthrise' - (Brass Band Buizingen - conducted by Luc Vertommen) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pb_DSCmiKcE

The Performers

Peter Sheppard Skaerved

Peter Sheppard Skaerved at work in Nashville, February 2014
Peter Sheppard Skaerved at work in Nashville, February 2014

 Peter Sheppard Skӕrved is a Grammy-nominated soloist who regularly plays in over 30 countries worldwide. He is the dedicatee of well over 300 works for by composers including Hans Werner Henze, George Rochberg and David Matthews. He has recorded over 70 discs of concertos, solo violin works and chamber music, including ground breaking cycles of Tartini, Telemann, Reicha and Beethoven. He regularly appears as soloist/speaker at Library of Congress, and is the only musician to have every curated an exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, London. Peter is Viotti Lecturer at the Royal Academy of Music, and leader of the Kreutzer Quartet. He has made site-specific projects involving diverse performers in challenging spaces in the Americas and Europe, with a particular focus in the Balkan States. Previous professional collaborations with Nigel Clarke have resulted in a series of groundbreaking works for solo violin, violin and ensemble, violin and orchestra, and chamber works, performed all over the world.He is married to the writer Malene Skӕrved. They live in London. Website: www.peter-sheppard-skaerved.com

Longbow

Longbow, directed by Peter Sheppard Skærved, is an collective of international performers known for critically acclaimed recordings on labels including Naxos, Toccata Classics, and Metier. They regularly give performances at London’s Wiltons’ Music Hall, where their programmes bring together music ranging from early Mendelssohn to works written for them. The ensemble is drawn from some of the most creative and original performers active today; its members hail from the USA, Japan, Macedonia, Australia, Canada Taiwan, France, and the UK. Most recently they made a pioneering recording of Hans Werner Henze’s Il Vitalino Raddoppiato, a work powerfully reflecting the players’ fascination with the links between past and present.

Sébastien Rousseau

The virtuoso Flugel Horn player Sébastien Rousseau has held the principal Flugel Horn Chair in the award winning Belgium brass ensemble, Brass Band Buizingen for many years and helped them to several National titles as well as competing with success at a European level. Sebastien is committed to the music education of the young. Already Sébastien has attracted a number of significant commissions by younger generation of composers including the future CD premiere of Nigel Clarke's new work for Sébastien Rousseau `The Scarlet Flower'.

Writer Martin Westlake

Martin Westlake
Martin Westlake

Martin Westlake (born 1957) is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the European Institute of the London School of Economics and a Visiting Professor at the College of Europe in Bruges. He served as Secretary General of the European Economic and Social Committee, 2008-2013. He previously had a lengthy career in various European institutions and organisations including the European Commission, the Council of the European Union (both Brussels) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Strasbourg). Westlake took a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University, an MA in International Affairs at the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (Bologna Center) and a PhD at the European University Institute, Florence. He has a Diploma in Creative Writing from the Open University. Martin has published widely on the European intuitions and on European and British politics. He is an author of a major political biography (Kinnock, The Biography). Martin has also published occasional journalism and some poetry in anthologies. Nigel and Martin have been collaborating on music-and-verse creations since 2009.

Risks and challenges

The most exciting challenge of this project, is bringing the excitement, the 'charge' of this music and writing in performance to CD. We have, collectively, experience in this: Peter has recorded over 70 critically acclaimed albums, three of them with Nigel, and this stretches to our collaborative work in the studio as producers and editors of our own works.

Recording dates and venues are already slated and the process, from recording, through production and product, is a tried and tested one. We have recorded many successful discs in All Saints Tooting, one of the finest recording acoustics in London, and are very confident of the success of this recording.

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