THE sound of rhubarb growing in the dark makes great music, at least when it’s interpreted by a remarkable musician and composer such as Duncan Chapman.
He’s done the same with a field of sprouts, as his audience at St Laurence Church at Surfleet discovered when Duncan gave a short talk during a concert performed by musicians from London Mozart Players.
Now Duncan wants people living and working in the district to come up with suggestions for their favourite sounds of the area to be transformed by him into something called the South Holland Symphony, which will be performed in Spalding on Thursday, July 19, by London Mozart Players, “one of the greatest orchestras in the world”, says Duncan.
To get involved in the project it is not necessary to know anything about music, or the “dotchits and crotchits” as Duncan jokingly refers to the technical skills of music.
“There are lots of ways we can compose music and I can compose music with you that doesn’t involve reading music,” Duncan told his audience at Surfleet.
He demonstrated this by turning the flat landscapes of the area into a melody performed by the Mozart Players, with long notes representing the level horizon, rolling notes suggesting the spouts growing in the field and a flowing baseline to signify the earth.
The concert was one of a series being held across the district together with a number of composition workshops that are open to people who don’t have a clue when it comes to music, but have strong feelings and emotions about the sounds of South Holland.
In fact, two young people who play the cello came to the workshop at Surfleet the day after the concert, and brought their instruments with them so that ideas could be immediately translated into musical notes.
We were also lucky to have violinist Nicoline Kraamwinkel, from the London Mozart Players, at the workshop and she interpreted some of my favourite sounds for me, such as tawny owls calling at night, the wild sound interrupting the normal domestic noises of home.
Duncan says if you do happen to play a musical instrument, that’s fantastic, but he adds: “Having ideas about music can belong to everybody.”
Duncan is creating a storyboard from the ideas that come out of each workshop and he will go away and turn that into the symphony. Ideas so far – and to listen out for when the symphony is played – relate to distant bells, agricultural motifs such as tractors and crops, the birds that are typical to the area and the idea of big open skies as well as stars in a black sky.
If rhubarb and sprout music sounds a million miles from what you might expect from the Mozart Players, don’t worry. Duncan says music is abstract and even if you do understand the technical language of music, it is still hard to talk about sounds.
“There isn’t a language to do with describing sounds that is shared by everybody,” he points out.
“There isn’t that common language, which is why music is magic because you can hear the same thing as me and have a different idea in your head.”
The South Holland Symphony Project is a partnership between South Holland District Council, Orchestras Live and the London Mozart Players, supported by Arts Council England and The Steel Charitable Trust.
The London Mozart Players will be performing (with a composition taster session from Duncan) at St Mary Magdalene Church, Gedney, on Thursday, April 19 and Crowland Abbey on Friday, April 20, with workshops at Crowland Abbey (April 21, May 12 and June 9 from 10am to 12 noon), South Holland Centre, Spalding (April 21 from 2pm to 4pm), and Holbeach Methodist Church (May 12 from 2pm to 4pm).
Tickets for concerts are available from South Holland Centre – workshops are free but register your intention to attend at South Holland Centre or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The South Holland Symphony Concert is at South Holland Centre in Spalding on Thursday, July 19 (7.30pm) – tickets from South Holland Centre.
And if you’re wondering, apparently rhubarb makes popping sounds as it grows...