Moments of transition, moments of revelation – a look back at a very musical 2016!

In a year when giant political shifts and the deaths of iconic figures have dominated the public consciousness, it would be easy to fall into the trap of believing that celebrating anything this year is a sort of act of futility.  Not so.  Perhaps the best remedy for the “post-truth” nonsense that fills the air with as much joy as a mariachi bagpipe act in a broken lift is to have a look back at what really happened as individuals and take the positives from that and fortunately, there’s a lot to be happy about.

Starting with the creative thing dearest to me, it’s been another fantastic year for Operation Lightfoot so only fair and proper to start with a heartfelt thank you to the musicians that I’ve had the pleasure of sharing it with.  The project has continued to evolve and the amazing line-up of  special guests have delivered some truly high calibre performances.  We kicked off this year with a commission to compose and record new music to accompany a scene from Metropolis for Imaginary Worlds at Morcambe Variety Festival.  It was a great opportunity to experiment with more electronic sounds and mix them with effects that don’t normally get to feature in our music.  After this, all efforts were directed towards our annual Threshold performance, again taking inspiration from the festival’s theme (Alchemy) to produce new collaborative work that incorporated  dance, poetry and visual elements.  Our newest co-writer, Kath Porter, featured on the only vocal track out of the five pieces and was accompanied by a dance piece choreographed and performed by Rachael Mellor as one of the highlights of the performance alongside Mike Neary’s off-stage reading of Rebecca Sowray’s poem, written especially for the event.  Unfortunately illness struck two of our planned guest singers, however Jo Bywater kindly agreed to play a few of her own tunes to an enthusiastic audience.  “Alchemy” was the most ambitious of our Threshold performances to date and not without its challenges, however all of these helped shape the performances that followed to ensure a much smoother operation all round.

The next Operation Lightfoot performance was the premiere of Peninsula, a series of ten pieces inspired by the history, places and people of Wirral.  The work was a collaboration with Chester Poets and commissioned by Wirral Festival of Firsts, featuring new and especially reworked material performed at Hoylake Chapel.  To date, this has been the only Operation Lightfoot performance to feature just one guest vocalist, FABIA, who had worked on co-writing the material.  Following this was a return to Wirral Earth Fest and then a return to Telfords Warehouse in Chester to perform at the 25th Anniversary concert of Nirvana’s Nevermind album for Chester Fringe.  The exciting prospect of reworking Smells Like Teen Spirit, Come As You Are and Lithium resulted in performances that were a thrilling little departure for us and after the success of this one, we’re hoping to follow this up for a similar event next year celebrating Radiohead’s OK Computer!  November included working with Jazamin Sinclair on a new video for our collaboration with Jo Bywater – Sharks.  The process felt almost effortless and the first draft was premiered (in sync to the track) at our final performance of the year at the Liverpool Acoustic Songwriting Challenge.  We opened both halves with a short set including past winners Vanessa Murray and Jo Bywater, as well as challenge judge Kaya.  We also had another special guest in the form of harpist Alice Kirwan, who performed on our track Solfall as a subtle tribute to the late Stan Ambrose.  We’ve delighted to have accepted our invitation to perform for a third time in 2017, by which time our debut selection of collaborations entitled “Alignments” will have been completed.

As wonderful as all of the above is, it’s actually just accounted for a small portion of the music related activities that have made the year so enjoyable.  From my music theory student passing his Grade 8 exam through to one off performances, stage managing and arrangement work, there has been no shortage of variety.  I’ve also worked with some great MD’s and musicians performing in a variety of different theatre shows (including two different productions of The Last Five Years, with another on the horizon in a few months making it my fourth time playing cello in that musical!).  I’ve also been working on arranging strings and putting together scores  for a new musical by an emerging writer, Luke Montague.  No spoilers, but I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the show develops after finishing the first act’s songs.

Another particular highlight has been working with a singer-songwriter who I’d watched a couple of years ago and have since recorded cello and double bass with on his latest EP.  A couple of the tracks have since had airplay on BBC Radio 2 and it’s really nice to see an artist putting in the time, effort and hard work into the craft of achieving what they set out to.  His name is Alx Green – go and have a listen!

After a number of years as living as a Scousewegian, it was bittersweet news when Kaya Herstad Carney told me that she and her husband Chris were moving from Liverpool to London after being offered an exciting role at the Academy of Contemporary Music.  This year has seen a couple of my favourite performances with Kaya in Science of the Lamps, including an energetic set at Threshold and an equally well delivered, but less raucous outing at Cheltenham Jazz Festival.  I have a funny feeling that a Liverpool homecoming gig of sorts will be on the cards in 2017 and hope it’s going well for them both in London.

Almost the whole of August was spent in the company of one of the most amazing groups of people I’ve ever worked with – Hope Street Limited’s Emerging Artists.  After coming into the fold not long before the month long project began (thanks again Kaya for the recommendation!), I was responsible for working with and mentoring a young composer and musical director – Matt Fairrie – to put together live and recorded music, sound and a host of other elements in place for an immersive theatre game called The Last Utopian.  This featured around twenty actors, volunteers and around a dozen teams playing across venues in Liverpool city centre before meeting at a grand finale event.  The project was both intense and incredibly rewarding seeing actors devising new scenes with the director, watching fight scenes being choreographed, characters being developed, design elements being revealed and also the technical side of the production being drawn together.  Matt’s approach and technical understanding was matched by a commitment shared by all of the emerging artists to deliver something bigger than the sum of its parts.  For me, there was also the opportunity to delve into something I hadn’t done before – sound design – and I’ll be looking out for a chance to do that again, I loved it!

As a performer, the rest of the year was a really nice mixture of events, ranging from the annual Chester parades, a little festival at Chester Zoo, wedding bookings and even an awards ceremony.  I’m looking forward to expanding on all of this in 2017 and working in closer partnership with some of the people that have made the last year (or in some cases, several years) so productive and rewarding.  Looking ahead, the smattering of work that is already booked in throughout 2017 covers a nice variety, especially where performing is concerned, with a couple of weddings, private parties and theatre shows already pencilled in amongst the plans for developing, writing and recording original material.

Finally, perhaps the biggest thing in 2016 was moving to Liverpool (finally!) after having spent such a huge chunk of my musical life up here over the last decade.  I can’t wait to start 2017 here, ready to see what’s around the corner!

Thank you to everyone that made 2016 so wonderful.

Happy new year!

Luke

 

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OPERATION LIGHTFOOT: Thank you 2015!

It’s great to look back at a really exciting and varied year for Operation Lightfoot!

Over the last twelve months, more collaborations have been written and recorded and the ever expanding line-up of guest musicians is on a par with any to be found on the stages of concert halls or stadiums up and down the land.  High praise, but completely deserved, given their commitment, versatility and the creativity they bring.  In fact, the calibre of everyone that has come on board for live shows and recording has been second to none and I’d like to start by saying a huge thank you to every one of them, as well as the festival organisers, promoters, sound engineers and of course everyone that has come to see us perform or enjoyed our  material.

There were plenty of highlights for Operation Lightfootthis year, too.  The first of which was our “festival within a festival” show on the closing night of Threshold Festival, when the Lantern Theatre played host to our eighteen strong line-up of guest vocalists, musicians, dancers, visual art, projections and a packed out audience.  New tracks featuring Jo Bywater, Mimi Amore and James Munro featured alongside a Japanese themed collaborative piece, Shoji (Paper Doors), inspired by images and experiences of Sebastian Gahan’s time living in Tokyo.  Being described as “an eclectic variety show of lovingly-orchestrated feature performances” in a write up in music magazine Bido Lito also brought a smile to our faces!

Operation Lightfoot played host to an event for Chester Fringe Festival for the second year running.  Shortly after, work began on a new commission to be performed at Earth Fest in September, entitled “Far from the Shore”.  A site visit to Hilbre Island, off the coast of West Kirby, was the inspiration for a five movement piece exploring the area’s history and the environmental themes of the festival.  Five new pieces of artwork by Max Da Silva Willis, who had taken our place as Visual Artist in Residence, featured alongside a ten piece line up of strings, brass, wind, piano and percussion, with vocalist FABIA becoming the newest vocal soloist to join us.  The premiere led to an approach from another festival to produce an expanded version of the piece for performance in Summer 2016 and meetings were held shortly after with the aim of securing the funding and logistics required to develop “Far from the Shore” further.

There has been a continuing effort to record the material for our debut album, “Alignments” and we revealed our collaboration Chains written with guest vocalist Sophia Ben-Yousef.  A live version of the track was broadcast on Bay TV and was included in our set at the Bombed Out Church (St Luke’s) in Liverpool as part of the last gig at the venue before it closed for work ahead of a public consultation.  We also completed our track Dochas (“Hope”) which will be made available in early 2016 and started recording Sharks (with Jo Bywater) and I Can Never Tell You (with Frankii Phoenix).  I would like to give special thanks to Luke Alexander Hodgkinson for investing his time and expertise working on the majority of the Operation Lightfoot recordings.  There have been a few late nights and difficult decisions but he has risen to the challenges posed and the music and project are all the stronger for having his perspective.

Operation Lightfoot’s year ended on a high for a few reasons.  We performed live and were interviewed by Wirral Radio DJ Chris Currie, and this was broadcast in mid-November.  We also performed two sets at the Liverpool Acoustic Songwriting Challenge, which included our collaborations with Kaya, Vanessa Murray, Jo Bywater, Frankii Phoenix and FABIA as well as new art work from Max Da Silva Willis.  The event is one that has had quite an impact on Operation Lightfoot since the project began, given that we have worked with a number of the previous winners and entrants, as well as judges Kaya and producer Jon Lawton (Crosstown Studios).

Finally, it looks like 2016 will involve creating even more music, having been approached about commissions to write new music for a silent film, an orchestral piece for a festival that is an extension of one of our existing pieces, and a May Day event with entirely new material.  As ever, we have put in our application to perform at Threshold Festival in Liverpool at the beginning of April, and the year is sure to provide a plethora of other opportunities to collaborate on creating new pieces that will inspire, showcasing the talents of everyone in a truly exciting way.

Happy new year!

Luke Moore
Artistic Director, Operation Lightfoot

@OpLightfoot
oplightfoot.bandcamp.com

 

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Milestones

I’ve reached a bit of a milestone today.  I probably won’t get an opportunity to celebrate it properly based on the amount of other things that need to be done ahead of a day on a music video set tomorrow and a weekend of rehearsals, but here’s a bit more about what I have been up to since the last post.

Firstly, though, two years ago today was my first full day as a full time professional composer, arranger, session musician and music tutor.  I had spent the previous twelve months working towards that day alongside other commitments, and had notched up years of experience working with bands, producers and other musicians, but on 25th September 2012, a lifelong dream became an exciting and challenging reality.

It has been a very educational journey to say the least!  I’ve learnt a lot about how to improve the things that I do best and I’ve made decisions on whether some of the weaker areas should be developed or whether the time should be used for other things.  I’m still learning and will continue to do so, but it has been nice to pass on some of the knowledge I’ve gained, when asked, to help other folks avoid some of the bumps on the same road.  I’m always happy to share what I know and it’s been wonderful to have done this as a guest speaker and guest lecturer at the occasional business start-up course or university.

Alongside my own professional development, I have had the opportunity to better understand myself as a person, as well as the people I choose to surround myself with.  These two things are more closely intertwined than a lot of people may think, after all, our friends say a lot about who we are and vice versa.  I have come to realise that success – however we define it to ourselves – is a team game, and all the better for it.  Some beautiful friendships have been made along the way, some renewed, others have grown and flourished, some people’s paths have only briefly crossed, before moving on to other amazing things.  Whatever the experience, it’s all been valuable in making the progress that has been made and shaping what’s to follow.

In terms of work, there has been a real range of one off and ongoing jobs coming in.  The variety is something I really enjoy and I’m grateful to everyone that has referred me too, it counts for a lot.  There are days that begin with meetings about an event or commission, then off to do some recording, an hour of tuition, perhaps a performance on the evening and a wedding string player booking too.  The down side is that sometimes last minute bookings mean I have to take the work on and occasionally plans become a bit more fluid than they might ordinarily be, but that’s the nature of the beast and a small price to pay for doing what I love.

In terms of recent developments, it’s with great pleasure that I’ve started to take on new Music Theory students and a lot of the lessons are taking place at Balance Vocal Studio on Wood St, Liverpool.  The studio was set up by Kaya Herstad Carney and Ian Davidson and is the go-to place for vocalists to develop technique and a range of other skills.  Email them on studio@balanceyourvoice.com for more information.

A few other milestones have been reached in this last year, too.  In late 2013, I signed a record deal that led to a label funding the recording and release of the first two tracks on the Operation Lightfoot album.  Operation Lightfoot, for those that have escaped the avalanche of plugging on social media in recent months, is a collaboration project featuring around a dozen guest artists that I am co-writing with.  Each song will be accompanied with a music video, or will itself be a reaction to a piece of artwork, short film or set of photographs.  The original theme – what would you tell yourself ten or twenty years ago and how would that change the person you became – has expanded to encompass a set of songs that cover a range of related subjects.  I can’t give too much more away, but the first track, featuring co-writer Vanessa Murray, was released in August and has since had a fair amount of radio play.  We’ve almost finalised the list of guest artists and they’re all of the highest calibre.  Operation Lightfoot opened Wirral Earth Fest with a specially commissioned piece accompanied by visuals by the amazingly multi-talented Lauren Walker, who was one of the three soloist singers on the evening.  We will be performing at Chester Fringe festival’s launch night Thursday 9th October.
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At the start of this year, I also had a commission to write an original soundtrack to the George Méliès 1902 silent film, A Trip to the Moon.  The film was played on a super eight projector around a dozen times at a festival and having written my final year university dissertation on music in science fiction films exactly ten years earlier, it was work that was particularly close to my heart.

More recently, I’ve had the pleasure of continuing to perform with Silent Cities (see page 16) and the line up includes cello and percussion more often these days.  The new material sounds as good as everything else and I can’t wait to hear the finished tracks!  I’ve also had the pleasure of performing with Liverpool’s very own adopted Shropshire Lad, Thom Morecroft.  A sold out show supporting Anna Corcoran last week at the Unity Theatre was one of the gig highlights of the year.  Both Thom and Silent Cities will be appearing on the Operation Lightfoot album, too.  Look out also for details of the launch of a mini album by Richard Batty, who I’ve scored and recorded strings for earlier this year.

Last and certainly not least, it’s been great to continue playing as part of The Science of the Lamps, and recording tracks for a film soundtrack “My Lonely Me” and a new EP.  The launch is 18th October at Williamson Tunnels in Liverpool.  So much is lined up for it, so head down and see for yourselves!

I guess I couldn’t finish without a mention to two very brief but inspiring moments from the last twelve months too.  One was my tweet about composer David Arnold being read out on BBC 6 Music and him playing the theme from Stargate in the studio after hearing it was an influence on me.  The other was a facebook status like from another composer, Bear McCreary, whose work on the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (2004-2010) has been a huge influence ever since.  Those kind of things don’t happen often, but serve as a great boost in their own way.

Thanks to everyone involved in making the journey what is has been so far and I’m looking forward to working on new music with current and future projects soon.

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“Thank you for the music…” & farewell 2013

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE THAT MADE 2013 SUCH A GREAT YEAR

Clients, artists, musicians, venues and everyone else, it’s been a pleasure working with you, for you, and alongside you in a truly exciting 12 months!  

Operation Lightfoot      The Science Of The Lamps     Silent Cities    Gary Edward Jones     Kaya     Emma Wells      Andy Cowan      Ultimate Fake Records       Tony Donaghey 
Life In Theatre Productions   Dave Monks    Vanessa Murray   Ground Pilots
Orange Room   
Metal Composer’s Lab Folks   Jon Lawton  Mimi Pearce  Christian Fa
Threshold Festival    
Cheshire West & Chester Council Arts Team    Mersey Wylie    Muzz    Liverpool Live     April Shiels    Sound City     Luke Alexander Hodgkinson      Emily Roe     Epstein Theatre    Leaf       The View Two Gallery     Crosstown Studios     Chris Towner      Mario Aguilar      Dan Mitton      Mark Brocklesby      Greta Svabo Bech   Ellie Major
Grethe Borsum    
Dan Thorne    Thom Morecroft    Theatr Clwyd    Jon Lawton
Siobhan McGuckian  
Richard Geraghty   Amy Freeman   Culture City Television  
Seba Rashii Culture    
Rob Eakins    Ian D Hall    Liverpool Acoustic  Paul Reay
Steph Baker   University of Chester Music Students    Donna Lea Morris   Rachel Jennings
Lucy Wilson     Sofie Jude    Hadleigh Bolt    Mellowtone    Saul Godman     Ewen Ceney     
Liverpool John Moore’s University    
Rhosnesni High School    Telfords Warehouse
Alexanders    
The Kazimier    The Mad Ferrett     Camp & Furnace   Aardvarker.com
The Swedish Church    Elevator   The Ship Inn   The Stables  The Castle Hotel
The people of Inverary    The Picket    The 286    Vicky Mutch   Studio Two
and everyone else that has made it such a great year!

Thanks also for sharing our collective writing/theatre/sitcom projects:
Rebecca Sowray    Andy Tabberer   Steph Brocken
Minerva Arts Group    Chester Cultural Collective

Cheers to the friends that were bombarded with draft recordings, came to support live gigs, gave feedback, encouragement, and inspiration
– you know who you are.

Finally, a special thank you to Pam Dawson for her business
advice & ever-inspiring no nonsense approach to life.

HERE’S TO 2014 – HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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“Goodbye until tomorrow”

It’s been a beautifully varied four months since my last post, and so probably high time for another entry here!

It’s been great to be doing some more songwriting, with several projects on the go at the moment.  The smaller of these is a track I’ve written with Vanessa Murray, which we’re now in the process of getting recorded after discussions with a local record label who expressed an interest in working with us after hearing the song.  I met Vanessa in December when I performed at the Liverpool Acoustic songwriting competition and she won it.  She approached me for Music Theory tuition shortly after this and I mentioned early on that I’d be interested in co-writing with her, so after she took her exam, we started work on this.  We will be recording soon, watch this space.

In addition to this, I’ve started work, writing a number of songs for a concept EP that will also feature Vanessa, alongside some of the singer-songwriters I’ve done session work for in the last year or so.  The premise is a simple one: what advice would you give to your younger self, and how would that affect how your life played out?  It’s early days, but most of the personnel to get this right are now in place and there’s already been an offer regarding publishing.  Plus, having done some brief workshops with two singers on the material that’s closest to be finished, I’m happy that it’s shaping up pretty well so far.  Stylistically, expect something with hints of Bjork, early Goldfrapp, Scott Walker, David Byrne.  More on that when it comes!

After a successful audition on cello, I spent the last half of May in rehearsals for Life In Theatre’s production of The Last Five Years at Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre, which ran throughout most of June.  The cast, Stephen Fletcher and Helen Carter, were both a real inspiration to work with, and it was a real privilege to work under the musical direction of Nick Phillips.  Unusually, the musicians were on stage behind the actors rather than in the pit, and the violinist, Emily Roe, really impressed me and is now one of a select few that I approach for strings session work.  We had unanimously positive reviews and I would love to be a part of any future tour should the show go on the road.
At the start of May, I performed with The Science of the Lamps at Liverpool Sound City.  In addition to performing at the Kazimier Gardens stage, it was great to see some of the other acts there, including a new favourite of mine, a French act called Moongai.  Sometimes as a performer and writer, it’s hard to switch off that little voice in your head when watching other acts, you know the one, that says things like “not sure about that chord”, “what’s the drummer doing”, “the vocalist is flat”, and so on, but seeing this eclectic French outfit live was just amazing, moving, euphoric…so I wanted to pass on the recommendation!  Check out their EP on Spotify, too.

There’s been a lot of smaller projects and session work, too.  At the end of May, both myself and Vicky Mutch (The Mono LPs) played cello with London band The 286, who were up for the International Pop Overthrow Festival.  Their sound has a great mix of influences, most noticeably ELO and Wings, and it was great to do an afternoon and evening performance with them.  I’ve also had the pleasure of scoring strings for Emma Painter Wells on a track called Alone, and a track called Twice Around The Sun by Liverpool band Orange Room.  I’ve also been doing some pre-production work with Gary Edward Jones, before we start recording his album.  There’s a gorgeous folk element to quite a few of the tracks, and everyone involved is really pleased with how quickly the tracks seem to have come together.

Finally, I mentioned in March’s post that I’d been invited to work with a group of folks looking to improve Chester’s cultural life.  The prevailing feeling was that there actually is quite a bit going on, but promotion, collaboration and audience engagement could be a lot better.   Whilst Chester didn’t make it through to the final round of the UK City of Culture 2017 bid process, the group decided very early on that the focus should be building existing events and putting something new on, perhaps in the form of a fringe festival type of event.    The foundations for that are being laid for something in 2014, and I will be looking for opportunities to collaborate musically and as a writer with some of the artists, writers and venues on new work for performance in some of the great locations in the city.  I have a vague idea how this might look, but I’ll say no more for now, until there’s something tangible to report.

Thanks to everyone I’ve worked with and who has worked for me, in whatever way that is.  It’s great to be regularly working with people that have all the right talents, attitude and motivation to make special things happen.  Here’s to the rest of the year!

Luke

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Composers Lab at Metal, Edge Hill, Liverpool

The inspiring spaces at Metal, Edge Hill, played host to a composers’ lab last week.  Having found out about it and been invited after a chance meeting with Metal’s Ian Brownbill, here is my write up of the experience.

“Composer”.  It’s one of those words that conjure a certain type of image to a lot of people.  Painted portraits of stern faces in wigs, quill in hand, somewhat aloof at a harpsichord.  Or caricatures of some of the more experimental figures, directing violinists in helicopters and letting concert halls sit almost caged within several minutes of silence (well, not quite silence, but…).  I’m delighted to say that “composer”, where my peers last week are concerned, is just a label for something much more vibrant, interesting, colourful and inspiring than any of the above.  

In fact, such was the range and scale of talented folks attending last week’s week long workshop, that along with feeling excited at what I’d learn, I felt a misplaced nervousness about the whole thing.

The aims of the week were enticingly broad, with an overall purpose of experimenting outside of our comfort zones, thinking about how we work and ways to do that differently.  Refreshingly, whilst there was time provided to produce work, there was no single objective, which meant that any pressure came from us as individuals.  With that in mind, it was no surprise that each of the composers involved was able to produce a work in progress piece, whilst playing on some of the others’ music.  By the time we gave a presentation to the group on the Friday afternoon, there were five distinctly different pieces of music and a sixth demonstration of a work in progress to create software code that modified sound live.

Aside from some technical sessions with ongoing support from musician/sound engineer Gareth Jones, and working on each other’s music, there were also several guests that came to talk to participants.  These included composer Anna Meredith (whose work froms was performed at the 2008 Last Night of the Proms), composer Nigel Clarke, and a new sound piece by Alan Dunn, Jeff Young and Martin Heslop.  Our hosts, Simon Poulter and Ian Brownbill, were as encouraging as they were thought-provoking, and I think I can speak for everyone involved when I say that their infectious passion and belief had a big impact on how easy it was to depart from our usual ways of working.

It was great to work with the rest of the group, playing cello on all of the other composers’ works.  First up, was working with Thomas Hawley, whose “They Threw Him In The Bay With Metal On His Feet” included a mixture of familiar and new elements to him.  Next, I picked the brain of Shelly Knotts, whose work often uses computer coding to alter sound from live instruments, or other sources.  There’s more to it than that, as I saw when she produced a graph resembling a monochrome tartan, which was actually a display of an analysis of sounds from cello and trumpet she had recorded.  After that, a session with Simon Dobson, a composer that works a lot with brass bands, and whose piece “Air” is a real departure from the previous work he showed us.  Dan Thorne, who I had known and wanted to work with before the week started, produced a piece “Nu Metal”, and Mak of All Trades incorporated the railings, walls and anything else that worked as percussion into his piece Chicka Choo.  All of these works can be heard at metalculture.com/Liverpool/composers-lab

From my own point of view, I decided very early on to leave a lot of my usual process as a composer/arranger at the door.  Out with the hooks, the motifs, the film music inspirations, the themes – and in with recording sound effects, mixing in surround sound (5.1 for those interested), lots of effects processing and a more hands on approach to the recording software.  This last part for me felt like a real epiphany!  Having spent some years watching (and paying) engineers and producers use industry-standard software such as Pro-Tools and Logic – usually at breakneck speed and once or twice at more of a snail’s pace – it was a real breakthrough to get in the hot seat myself and get more familiar with it thanks to help from Gareth Jones.  The result was a work in progress that I’m already hoping to edit in the near future.  Well, actually, the result is being really excited about applying all of these elements to future composition commissions and arrangement work and already having started to.

So, as we all enjoyed our last lunch together (big thanks to Jodie and Mei – both musicians themselves – for an amazing array of home cooked cuisine!), the inevitable question of “what next” seemed to hang in the air.  The atmosphere and resulting music throughout the week is certain to ensure future collaboration between those involved in this composers’ lab.  I’m looking forward to it.

To finish, just a personal thank you to Ian Brownbill for the invitation, and to everyone else that made the week a real highlight this year.

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2013 so far

So far, 2013 has been a really exciting year and despite a bout of sinusitis that robbed me of a week in January, it’s been all positive!  Here’s a little bit about what I’ve been up to, and how I seen things shaping up for the next few months.

First off, let me introduce you to Operation Lightfoot.  After getting the slot I applied for at Threshold Festival, I figured that it would be great to put something together that was more ambitious and exciting than the performance I’d had in mind.  After hearing some of filmmaker/musician Richard Geraghty’s tracks, and seeing some of his filming work, we decided to team up and came up with a loose outline of what we wanted to do.  In short, Operation Lightfoot would be live performances of four tracks (two written by each of us) with specially made videos projected behind the band.  It was a big ask in a very short space of time, would it work?

I had already contacted some of the musicians I wanted to work with about the slot, and once we had a clearer idea of the sound we were going for, I was in a position to speak to the singers that would work for it.  Time restraints and other commitments meant that we workshopped and rehearsed the material with various combinations of the musicians in the room at any given time.  So, the first time the whole nine-piece band got together was the day of festival, backstage before we went on!  But I’d worked with all of these musicians on various projects before and I knew placing our faith in them would pay off.

On the whole, I was really pleased with how the performance went.  This was the first time the whole set had been played with all of the musicians, along to the visuals projected on the giant screen behind us.  A healthy sized audience stayed to see the whole set, and we have had a lot of really positive feedback (plus some offers to discuss recording some of the material and possible publishing/licensing).  I just want to re-iterate my thanks to the musicians involved – from left to right, Christian Fa, Siobhan McGuckian, Mersey Wylie, David Burton, Chris Towner, Mimi Pearce, Rich Geraghty, and Luke Hodgkinson.  Special thanks also to Luke for agreeing to be filmed for one of the videos, as well as John Pearson and last but not least, Muireann McDermott Long for sparing the time to be filmed for the videos.  A superb team effort, which we’re looking forward to repeating and expanding upon soon!


Photo by Delia Brady-Jacobs

http://thresholdfestival.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/day-three-spectacular-finale.html?m=1  and  http://seba-rashii.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/threshold-festival-2013-reviewday-three.html

It’s been a real pleasure to continue joining The Science of the Lamps for live shows (and a session with BBC Introducing host Dave Monks at Radio Merseyside) for the last few months.  I’m now playing some piano and glockenspiel with them, as well as cello on the tracks, and aside from a slight case of “beater-malfunction” on my part last week, I think it’s sounding pretty good!  After our set at Threshold, I’m looking forward to working on more material with them soon.

And speaking of Threshold, I should say a big congratulations to Kaya and Chris Herstad Carney and everyone else involved in the best one yet!  What an amazing weekend of music, arts, everything!  Aside from performing, I was able to review some of what was on offer and you can see my write-ups of all 3 days on Liverpool Live’s site.

I have played a couple of live shows with Gary Edward Jones this year too, including a bookended single launch over two gigs.  Gary’s so easy to work with that even being put on the spot and “busking” some of the tracks was actually a lot of fun.  Normally I like to have everything rehearsed to the point where I’m about 95% there with it, and the performance draws out the rest, but sometimes it’s nice to play a bit more fast and loose, when it pays off!

There’s a mix of session work coming in, too, mainly string arranging and some solo cello too.  As it stands, I’m looking forward to working with Luke Fenlon, Emma Painter Wells, Guy Thackham, and I have also been working with Ground Pilots and Hadleigh Bolt, both of whom are based in London.  Look out for posts on how that’s going over the next few weeks and months.

Aside from the above, I’ve continued to do some teaching (Music Theory) and gave a guest lecture to students at Liverpool John Moores University, to talk about composing, arranging and songwriting.  I was also recently invited to be a part of a non-political lobby group under the heading of “Chester Needs a Cultural Boost”, which will be exploring ways to promote, develop and support the Arts within the city in the run up to the bid for UK City of Culture status in 2017.  The first meeting was this week and it was great to meet some new faces and contribute some ideas to how ongoing activity could work.

There are a few other exciting things in the pipeline that I can’t mention just yet until they are confirmed, but watch this space!

Finally, I’d like to wish all the best to someone I’ve worked with on a number of things for the last few years and who is moving back to live in the Faroe Islands, and that’s Greta Svabo Bech.  She is as easy to work with as she is talented, always a pleasure to be around, and the type of musician that has everything – technique, patience, a good ear, an amazing voice.  On one hand, I’m really pleased that she is moving into an exciting new chapter in her life – which I’m sure will yield some amazing music – on the other, I’m very sad to see her leave Liverpool behind, as I’m sure anyone else that’s worked with her is.  Good luck Greta and thanks for some amazing music-making and a few giggles along the way too!

That’s all for the first few months of the year and of course, thanks for the support, you know who you are.

Luke

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