These songs are the soundtrack to an ancient manuscript for our time
“I’ve turned something nightmare-ish into something else. That experience of being homeless, which I’ve never talked about. A lot of my friends didn’t know it was happening. But now those memories have become part of something beautiful.”
People who have experienced homelessness have made a medieval-style illuminated manuscript, describing their lives, hopes and dreams in a 2-year project in Manchester. Accompanying the manuscript is this remarkable song-cycle of hymns and chants. The songs have been overseen by singer-songwriter Matt Hill working with poet Philip Davenport.
The songs celebrate a wide cross-section of individual lives, lives that don’t appear in history books, something A BOOK OF OURS aims to change. It celebrates the voices of those who are sometimes unheard, and yet who have much to say.
Project director Phil Davenport explained “This is a rare and very moving opportunity to step into the shoes of people who have extraordinary life experiences and are willing to share them.”
The Covid lockdown hit just as the songwriting sessions were getting underway. Rules of socially distanced workshops meant participants were not allowed to sing. But from this imposition came inspiration. “Instead of singing, we chanted” explains Hill “Just like the early medieval monks. The drone and rhythm of our quietly spoken voices drew us in. The results are very powerful and moving”
Taking a lead from the Illuminated Manuscripts, other elements of Medieval music underpin the songs - drum patterns, drones, chanting – but the songs also have the influence of 20th century folk and blues traditions. Hill explains “Those modern traditions – protest songs, work songs, relationship songs – are about singing the reality of your everyday life. They are songs of struggle and redemption. Just like the monks were doing back in the olden days. And that is what my co-writers have done so powerfully with the Book of Ours.”
released March 8, 2022
Satellites: songs from A Book of Ours
Performers, in order of appearance
Lawrence - narration ; Matt - vocals, piano, banjo, mandolin, percussion
Kris - vocals & spoken word ; Christine - vocals, glockenspiel, harmonium, drones
Chris - featured vocalist, courtesy Madman Productions ; Mark - spoken word
Phil - keyboards, bass, vocals, ambient recordings; Shannah - spoken word
The players (speaking, drumming, chanting & singing)
Aija, Anonymous, Anthony, Arafat, Big Mac, Chris, Christine, Crystal, Dean, Farina, Gary, Harriet, Harry, Jason, Jakir, Kate, Keith, Kris, Krista, Lawrence, Leighton, Mark, Masoud, Michael, Milan, Niall, Robyn, Roy, Robert, Sue, Tadas, Thomas. Our thanks to all those who participated but wish to remain anonymous
Main authors of lyrics & poems: 1) Lawrence 2) Chris 3) Group collaboration 4) Chris 5) Chris 6) Group collaboration 7) Steve 8) Group collaboration 9) Group collaboration 10) Group collaboration 11) Andy 12) Robyn 13) Lawrence 14) Lawrence 15) Anonymous
Produced by Matt Hill & Phil Davenport
Lyrics/poems by participants in collaboration with Phil Davenport & Matt Hill
Music and arrangements by Matt Hill
Chants improvised by group
Satellites melody co-composed by Hill-Davenport
Recorded on location at the Booth Centre, Manchester, on the streets of Manchester & at various locations by phone. Mastered by Mike Harries at Electric Caveman.
Artwork Cover Angel by Betty Boo, with decorative border by Mark; inner cover pencil drawing by Matthew; back cover by Anonymous; CD disc artwork by Dee.
This song cycle was made to accompany A Book of Ours, a medieval-styled illuminated manuscript created by people who have experienced homelessness & other vulnerable people. These songs & chants feature voices direct from Manchester’s streets.
A Book of Ours is an arthur+martha project, devised & directed by Phil Davenport & Lois Blackburn. Many thanks to our hosts The Booth Centre & Back on Track. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund
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