Category Archives: gigs

After the show…

I Reach Right Up to the Sun

One of my favourite moments of Saturday’s performances was ‘discovering’ the choir standing silently in the woods – particularly in the second show. The dusk accentuated the luminous quality of everyones’ white shirts against the dark of the trees. Then the beginning of Barren Estate – the incantation of this plant-spell reverberating amongst the tree trunks. Another moment was standing with the quintet in the hollow listening to ‘In summer autumn’ fading as the choir left the woods.

Early One Morning – photo Phil Sayer

When I checked my Pacer pedometer app on my phone for Saturday alone it told me I had walked (or run in some moments) 35,000 steps, which is apparently 16.5 miles. It certainly felt like it – but made very much worth it by comments made post-show by audience members who, of course, saw and heard things in the landscape that we, as performers, didn’t see or hear: the three white deer photobombing us as we walked back to the house after our ‘exit’; the perfect flying-V geese making their lazy way across the sunset in ‘Rationalists’, the on-cue tawny owl hooting along with ‘In Beau-ooo-ooo-ty’ or the pair of buzzards circling high above the house in ‘These Are the Things We Have Lost’. Coincidence is one of the delights of the outdoor site-responsive work we do.

Front of House – photo Phil Sayer

More great choir singing moments – ‘ La Clé des Champs’ sounded great – it’s difficult harmonically (sorry!) but we really pulled it off. ‘Significant Landscapes VI’ (‘Rationalists’) round the Richard Long ‘Full Moon’ slate circle was really well sung. The version of ‘In Beauty’ in the colonnades could have been really tricky for tuning and timing but again it worked excellently ‘in living stereo’.

Many thanks to all in the choir who put in such supreme efforts to get to Houghton Hall and also for learning the music and blocking of the show. Many thanks to Alex Lingford, our brilliant production manager. And of course much gratitude to the Cholmondeley family for letting us use the house and gardens of the amazing Houghton Hall.

These are the things we have lost – photo Phil Sayer

Birds of Hell – Astronomy Programmes

And here’s a link to the Birds of Hell video to the gorgeous song Astronomy Programmes – a fantastical swoon of a tune with great dreamy backing vocals…


Birds of Hell Live (with The Neutrinos and Ross Sutherland) Saturday 21st May Norwich Arts Centre 8.30pm – tickets here

Birds of Hell Pete Murdoch Starman Strategies Songmaking workshop Saturday 21st May Norwich Arts Centre 3pm tickets here

Pete Murdoch – Birds of Hell

One of the very best songwriters around at the moment, Pete Murdoch (a.k.a.Birds of Hell) has been picking up a lot of plaudits recently for his extraordinary, eerily atmospheric and eclectic tales of Clint Eastwood, being eaten by snakes and dogging. Abetted by Iain Lowery, Carl Cole, Alan Southgate and some dead relatives too, the previous single Boa reached #11 in the UK vinyl chart. His new single Astronomy Programmes is receiving lots of attention from BBC6 Music, Radio 1 etc.

Pete Murdoch

Birds of Hell will be performing as part of Vocal Invention on Saturday 21st May in a concert which also features The Neutrinos and Ross Sutherland.

Tickets for that concert here

Also a highly-experienced workshop leader, Pete will be running  a session from 3pm called ‘Starman Strategies’  In this fun and hands-on workshop he will explore some of the creative methods of David Bowie.’Cut up’ lyric writing,  graphic scores, subverting instruments, writing in character, Eno’s Oblique Strategies – all of these approaches will be used collaboratively creating, playing and singing ‘our own song’. There may well be a bit of Philly Soul, Kraftwerk or drum and bass or make a glam rock monster! Bring your voices and if you like, your own instruments. Some instruments and amplification will be provided.

Workshop tickets here

Brief biography

Pete Murdoch’s music can broadly be divided into two categories: music for kids and music for adults. He’s about to release an album of kid’s music ‘that grown-ups won’t hate’ under the name of Henhouse (think ska version of 5 Little Monkeys sung by Ray Winston). And for the adults there is Birds of Hell where, using guitar, vocoder and tape recordings of dead relatives, he renders songs on subjects ranging from his family to being eaten by snakes and Clint Eastwood. Pete is a former member of Norwich favourites Sargasso Trio who enjoyed numerous sessions for BBC 6Music as well releasing records in Japan, America and Europe. He is also an experienced music tutor delivering workshops for over 10 years with children and adults.


Nocturne – a new winter show by The Voice Project Saturday December 14th

This Saturday at Norwich Cathedral – two evocative, seasonal shows (7 & 9pm) with The Voice Project Choir and Human Music. Songs by Helen Chadwick, Karen Wimhurst, Meredith Monk and Jonathan Baker. Words by Tennyson, Andrew McDonnell, Kathleen Raine, Maura Dooley and Agnes Lehoczky. Tickets from Norwich Arts Centre for the 7pm performance and the 9pm performance and from the Cathedral Shop – 01603 218450


The Voice Project at Norwich Cathedral (photo by Phil Sayer)


City of Strangers – all lyrics and poems

From  Sum by David Eagleman

 When  you die, you feel as though there were some subtle change, but everything looks approximately the same.

You get up and brush your teeth, you say goodbye to your family and leave for work. There is less traffic than normal. The rest of your building seems less full, as though it’s a holiday. But everyone you work with is here and they greet you kindly. You feel strangely popular. Everyone you run into is someone you know. At some point it dawns on you that this is the afterlife: the world is only made up of people you have met before.

It’s a small fraction of the population – about 0.00002 percent – but it seems like plenty to you

It turns out that only the people you remember are here. So the man you shared a glance with in the lift may or may not be included.

Your primary school teacher is here, with most of your class. Your parents, your cousins and your spectrum of friends through the years. Your grandmothers and the waitress who served your lunch.  Those you loved , those you longed for.

It is a blissful opportunity to spend time with your one thousand connections, to renew fading ties,to catch up with those you let slip away.

It ‘s only after several weeks that you start to feel folorn.

You wonder what’s different as you saunter through the vast quiet parks with a friend or two. No couples grace the empty park benches. No family unknown to you throws breadcrumbs to the ducks and makes you smile because of their laughter. As you step into the street you note that there are no  crowds, no buildings teeming with workers, no distant cities bustling, hospitals running 24 hours a day with patients dying and staff rushing,no trains howling into the night with sardined passengers on their way home. Very few foreigners.

You begin to consider all the things unfamiliar to you. You’ ve never known you realise, how to vulcanize rubber to make a tyre. And now those factories stand empty. You have never known how to fashion a silicon chip from beach sand, how to launch rockets out of the atmosphere,how to pit olives or lay railway tracks.

(The missing crowds make you lonely. You begin to complain about all the people you could be meeting. But no-one listens, because this is precisely what you chose when you were alive.

Year by Year  words and music: Erin McDonnell

Year by year I am learning

Songs from childhood are returning

See your arms are open old man in me

Your voice has spoken

Such a road my life is taking

Holy company beside me

Light the road where many are meeting

Welcome stranger to my home

Mt Gabriel words: Derek Mahon music: Jonathan Baker

As if planted there by giant golfers in the ski

White in the gloaming last before New Brunswick

The geodesic domes have lost their caves

To sit out in the summer sunset. Angels

Beamed at Namancos and Bayona, sick

With exile they yearn homeward now, their eyes

Tuned to the ultramarine, first star-piereced dark

Reflected on the dark, incoming waves –

Who aliens, burnt-out meteorites, time-capsules,

Are here for ever more as intermediaries

Between the big bang and our scattered souls

IMG_8525 - Version 2

Photo: Phil Sayer

Home 1 words and music: Katherine Zeserson

Carrying a blanket

A lock of hair

A piece of paper

That tells you where you can go or stay

A slap in a language

You don’t understand

Hurts just as much

From a friendly hand

Can’t go can’t stay can’t go can’t stay can’t go can’t stay can’t go can’t stay

My boundary is my skin

Peel me back

Reveal my borders of bone

My no-go zone of breath and blood

God save our gracious….oh say can you see…..gracious save….

My skin my bone my breath my blood

Can’t go can’t stay

White. C.M. music:Edmund Dumas 1856

Ye fleeting charms of earth farewell

Your springs of joy are dry

My soul now seeks another home

A brighter world on high

I’m a long time travelling here below

I’m a long time travelling away from home

I’m a long time travelling here below

To lay this body down

Farewell my friends whose tender care

Has long engaged my love

Your fond embrace I now exchange

For other friends above

I’m a long time travelling here below

I’m a long time travelling away from home

I’m a long time travelling here below

To lay this body down

When I think of Home words: Jackie Kay, Nazim Hikmet tr.Christie, McKane, Halman and Chadwick adapted from interviews with Lala Isla and Antonio Gil Martinez music: Helen Chadwick

When I think of home I can’t ever decide where. Home is where I can bring people a place for them, a fixed point in their transit. Home is a feeling it’s not a place for me. They ask me where do you come from, where is home I say, ‘I come from here’. We open doors, close doors, pass through doors. If I could choose to set out or not on this journey I’d do it again.

Into Dusk Into Day words: Andrew McDonnell music: Jonathan Baker

Fade and fade and fade and fade and fade and fade

Hear the voices of the dead slip between us

Feel them slip their hands within ours

The rattle of the trains, the shouts in the streets

The sirens , radios, the lights on the keep

The cattle drove towards the market

The changing faces on the money in our pockets

The expanding miles our shoes travel to fit us

The children dancing away into dusk

In the rust of the day

The things we say

In the suits and dresses

In age old caresses

Answer them back before they disappear

Let them hear our voices ringing in their ears

Speak of our city of our loves of our fears

Tell them everything now night drawers near

Let the river flow how it wants to flow

Let the city go where it wants to go

Pass on the city to those on the morning tide

Let them feel your hand into their hand slide

Let them stand here

Let’s whisper in their ear

We who are here but also gone

We sing to you our evensong

City that does not sleep (excerpt) words: Federico Garcia Lorca music: Sianed Jones

In the sky there is nobody asleep. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on thestreet corner
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the stars.Nobody is asleep on earth.Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
In a graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.Life is not a dream. Careful!Careful!Careful!
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the deaddahlias.
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever
and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.

IMG_8504 - Version 2

Photo: Phil Sayer

La Clé des Champs words: Jacques Charpentreau music: Jonathan Baker (these notes by Marie-Christine Brown-Carion)

‘Prendre la clé des champs’ means ‘to get away from it all’.

In the Middle Ages, the fields – the wide open spaces – represented liberty, independence, the escape from social control.  To ‘take the key to the fields’ (‘prendre la clé des champs’) is to open the door to freedom.  When fields began to be enclosed, people felt they lost their freedom (perdre la clé des champs).  The ‘pie qui jacasse’ (the chattering magpie) was the petty bureaucrat who facilitated the loss of freedom.  Magpies steal keys!

La clé des champs(often spelled la clef de champs) is today the name of many hotels, restaurants, gites, holiday villages, camps-sites, secluded gardens.  Near Paris and in Montreal, there’s a voluntary organisation which runs a retreat called La Clé des Champs for people suffering from ‘nervous breakdowns and anxiety disorders’.

La Clé des champs is the name of a choir, at least two movies (1961 and 2011), and a number of chansons with the same name have been recorded by various artists such as Lokua Kanza, Jaques Godot, Bruno Coulais.  (Obviously no copyright on the name – as all the songs have different words and different music.)  It’s also the title of a 19th century book of erotic folk-songs!

On a perdu la clé des champs!

Les arbres, libres, se promènent,

Le chêne marche en trébuchant,

Le sapin boit à la fontaine.

Les buissons jouent à chat perché,

Les vaches dans les airs s’envolent,

La rivière monte au clocher

Et les collines cabriolent.

J’ai retrouvé la clé des champs

Volée par la pie qui jacasse.

Et ce soir au soleil couchant

J’aurai tout remis à sa place.



We’ve lost the key to the fields!

The trees, free, stroll about,

The oak tree walks, stumbling,

The pine tree drinks from the fountain.

The bushes play chat perché,

Cows take flight in the air,

The river rises to the bell-tower

And the hills cavort.

I’ve found the key to the fields again,

Stolen by the chattering magpie.

And this evening, at sunset

I will put everything back in its place.

Chat perché is a game of tag.

Qui a volé la clef des champs ?

La pie voleuse ou le geai bleu ?

Qui a perdu la clef des champs ?

La marmotte ou le hoche queue ?

Qui a trouvé la clef des champs ?

Le lièvre brun ? Le renard roux ?

Qui a gardé lé clef des champs ?

Le chat, la belette ou le loup ?

Qui a rangé la clef des champs ?

La couleuvre ou le hérisson ?

Qui a touché la clef des champs ?

La musaraigne ou le pinson ?

Qui a perdu la clef des champs ?

Le porc-épic ? Le renard roux ?

Qui a volé la clef des champs ?

Ce n’est pas moi, ce n’est pas vous.

Elle est à personne et partout

La clef des champs, la clef de tout.

Claude ROY


Who stole the key to the fields:

The thieving magpie or the blue jay?

Who lost the key to the fields:

The groundhog or the grey wagtail?

Who found the key to the fields:

The brown hare or the red fox?

Who keeps the key to the fields:

The cats, the weasel or the wolf?

Who put away the key to the fields:

The snake or hedgehog?

Who touched the key to the fields:

The shrew or the finch?

Who lost the key to the fields:

The porcupine or the red fox?

Who stole the key to the fields:

It’s not me, it’s not you.

It is anyone and everywhere:

The key to the fields is the key to everything.

Jerusalem (excerpt) words:  James Fenton music Jonathan Baker

Stone cries to stone,
Heart to heart, heart to stone,
And the interrogation will not die
For there is no eternal city
And there is no pity
And there is nothing underneath the sky
No rainbow and no guarantee –
There is no covenant between your God and me.
It is superb in the air.
Suffering is everywhere
And each man wears his suffering like a skin.
My history is proud.
Mine is not allowed.
This is the cistern where all wars begin,
The laughter from the armoured car.
This is the man who won’t believe you’re what you are.
This is your fault.
This is a crusader vault.
The Brook of Kidron flows from Mea She’arim.
I will pray for you.
I will tell you what to do.
I’ll stone you. I shall break your every limb.
Oh, I am not afraid of you,
But maybe I should fear the things you make me do.

The Botticellian Trees (excerpt) words: William Carlos Williams music: Jonathan Baker

The alphabet of
the trees

is fading in the
song of the leaves

the crossing
bars of the thin

letters that spelled

and the cold
have been illumin’d

pointed green

by the rain and sun–
The strict simple

principles of
straight branches

are being modified
by pinched-out

ifs of color, devout

the smiles of love…
. . . . . .

We are the river – George Szirtes

We are the river, the stream under the water.

We are the bricks and the flint in our bones.

We are the voice that breaks in the air when the birds sing.

We are the street and the river, the blood in our veins.

We’re pumped through the body by the heart in your possession.

We emerge from your mouths like breathing aloud.

We are the street and the river, the noise in the lungs.

We are passing away as we all do in passing.

We are street and river and voice.

We are passing.

Meeting House  Words: Sian Croose Music: Karen Wimhurst

There is sound in the walls

Moving from room to room

A black and white whisper.

Gracenotes in the corridors

Along the seams

Of doors and windows.

Draughts are blowing old voices

into dust corners

They gather in the dark.

Quiet. then

A hundred songs from the balcony

Tuesday’s bells ring on the hill.

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Photo: Phil Sayer

City of Strangers Dec 15th 2012

Huge thanks to all who took part in City of Strangers at the Friends Meeting House – the atmosphere and the singing were tremendous. Lots of thank yous: to Deb at the Meeting House, Marian Fox, Fiona Garner, Philip and Margaret Howard.


Home 1 (photo Tim Cawkwell)

And a very big thanks to Tim Tracey for the brilliant lighting and the team, – Roz Coleman (stage manager), Ruth Sandell, Pip Cotterill, Alix Lingford, Lorna Shipley, Elena Italia, Sal Pittman, Chris Whitfield.

City of Strangers


The sequel to ‘Singing in the City’ created by The Voice Project. 100 singers hidden and revealed – songs from the galleries, corners and corridors of the light and dark – a song cycle for a winter’s night.

Approx 50 mins

Three performances at 5, 7, 9pm at The Friends Meeting House Upper Goat Lane Norwich NR2 1EW

Tickets from Norwich Arts Centre Box Office 01603 660352