Friday 11 March 2022

Now as before: How EP Within a Certain Time and Place came about, by lyricist Chinwe D. John

Two parallel paths converged, to result ultimately in the path that led to this EP.

In this guest posting, librettist Chinwe D John writes about collaborating with composer Geoff Hannan on songs for the EP, Within a Certain Time and Place on Voces8 Records [Link Tree] with Andrew Staples (tenor) and Alisdair Hogarth (piano)

In October of 2020, as tension built in the country, I turned to the music of Bach for solace. This led to me discovering countertenor Tim Mead, which in turn led me to discovering Andy Staples, via a Purcell series performed by La Nuova Musica (LNM) under David Bates, featuring both artists. The series was fantastic, and I contacted LNM to give a little support as a thank you. To my surprise, that December, I received an email from LNM, inviting me to attend their Purcell live Zoom event for free, as a thank you for my earlier donation.

Around the same time, I became more aware about the unique challenges facing the UK classical music industry, and the growing trend to reduce funding of the arts in its schools. It had become clear to me, that philosophies and principles, are never confined to their point of origins, especially in our present times. If the UK, which for me, had been a major influence when it came to literature/orchestral music, was investing less in the arts, it signified a global shift in perspective. I decided to try and help, by commissioning contemporary composers to set music to lyrics reflective and relevant to our present times. For me, this was a potential way of increasing classical music’s listening audience.

Within a Certain Time and Place on Voces8 Records
The next path of the story began in January 2021, when I began my search in earnest for a composer to commission. I had no idea where to start, but a recommendation led to me discover the London Sinfonietta’s website, and on it, a list spanning the years, of composers they had commissioned. The two paths converged in February, when composer Geoff Hannan, accepted a commission to write music to the lyrics of song Now as Before. The theme of the song was Hope, and it felt appropriate considering what we were all facing at the time. I sent an enquiry email to Andy Staples, who had shown an interest to a question I posed on the earlier referenced Zoom event, asking if he would be interested in performing our song. After Geoff and I were done collaborating on the song, we shared it with him, and he loved it. He suggested we write more songs, so as to give the work a chance of receiving airplay, in the form of an EP. This was a very exciting prospect, and two more songs were written in less than a month.

Because I had never planned on making an EP, the budget was tight to say the least. So as to allow me the ability to finance the recording, neither Andy Staples nor his friend, virtuoso pianist Alisdair Hogarth, received a commission. Furthermore, the composer Geoff, also waived a commission fee for the next two song, Changing Fate and Oriented. This act of sacrifice at a time when things were very hard for everyone, especially artists, who had seen most gigs cancelled due to the pandemic, was very moving, and influenced the way I wrote the lyrics for Changing Fate.

After the songs were recorded, Andy Staples and Alisdair Hogarth, set about working on finding a distributor for the songs, and all the other things necessary to make the EP available to listeners. The album’s cover art was designed by Andy. Andy and Alisdair were able to secure a release with Voces8 Records, and our EP Within a Certain Time and Place, was released on March 4, 2022.
Collaborating on this EP has been a wonderful experience, I would like to extend my deepest thanks to Geoff Hannan, Andy Staples and Alisdair Hogarth, for their sacrifice, dedication and great artistry. I would also like to thank the Voces8 recording label, for supporting our EP.
Chinwe D. John

Geoff Hannan & Chinwe D John: Within a Certain Time and Place - Andrew Staples, Alisdair Hogarth  Voces8 Records, VCM142 [Link Tree]

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