Case Study: Beyond Borders – In Place by Colin Riley
In Place explores a sense of place in the British Isles; how it informs our cultural identity; shapes our language and dialects; provides both solace and stimulation, and contains histories both universal and personal. It speaks to all corners of the British Isles; Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and England. It also crosses art-form boundaries.
Composer Colin Riley collaborated with writers for whom place is a recurring theme (Robert Macfarlane, Paul Farley, Selina Nwulu, Nick Papadimitriou, Jackie Morris, Richard Skelton/Autumn Richardson). This specially created writing will formed the core of a set of songs for vocalist Melanie Pappenheim and a 4-piece ensemble (piano/keybords-Kate Halsall, viola-Nic Pendlebury percussion-Stephen Hiscock, bass guitar-Ruth Goller).
Colin Riley’s work draws on a range of elements including new technologies, improvisation, song-writing and large-scale classical form. His work is difficult to categorise, embodying a genuine integration of stylistic approaches. This project saw him utilising his skills as a collaborator, leader, producer and researcher.
In Place is a significant body of innovative work for which specific aims for success were set, lets take a look at how they achieved them:
Aim 1: To be a catalyst for linking with art-communities and organisations
The UK tour started in November 2017 with the premiere at Sound Festival Scotland, who commissioned the piece. Highlights of the tour also included Belfast Book Festival who were a partner of the project. This took place Crescent Arts Centre and had a wide programme of visiting authors, alongside music events, which worked well for In Place and it was the only literary festival In Place was performed at.
Aim 2: To act as a vehicle for strong and diverse cross-artform audience development
Some of the recordings for the Nan Shepherd song had been made in Logie Coldstone, an extremely small rural village in Aberdeenshire, with local residents. We thus decided to have a performance there as well as in Aberdeen. We worked with the local primary school (25 pupils) who wrote texts based on their local area, which the musicians then put to music. These pieces were performed alongside the In Place song cycle at Logie Coldstone in October 2018 and 45 members of the population including a number of the children came along. Nearly all the audience were attending a new music performance for the first time.
In 2019 the second tour had much smaller audiences, but each performance was extremely well received and was followed by a discussion with the composer and musicians.
Aim 3: To harnesses the zeitgeist of current popular interest in field recording, nature writing, word-hoards, regional dialects and psycho-geography.
The performance at North Wall Arts Centre for project partner Oxford Contemporary Music, there was a fine art exhibition programmed alongside In Place, which was celebrating the natural world and exploring issues of people and place, with photography and writing from Rob and Harriet Fraser.
As well as live performances an album was released in May 2018, published by Squeaky Kate Music which can be purchased here. There was also a specially created film for tracks from the album and the piece was broadcast several times on Resonance FM, London.
“In Place, is a strange, stylistically complex, and frequently beautiful song cycle, set.” – Ello
“…there were certainly things that were beautiful and breathtaking, but there were also unsettling moments, uncanny or simply strange. And this is how it should be. For why else would be we explore the coastline or the unknown city neighbourhood, search for the hidden valley or take the path that leads deep into the forest?” – Elsewhere
What’s happening next?
“The project is a rather magical one, and it may well develop further, as there is the potential to add new songs to the existing cycle if further funding could be found, and for further performances to take place. We might well do co-commissioning with Oxford Contemporary Music. We are, however, talking to Cheltenham Music Festival (one of the other promoters) about potential future joint projects. We are currently talking to Colin Riley about developing an education project for secondary schools from In Place, to potentially be delivered in 2020.“
Listen to Podcast 1: ‘It Does Nothing, Absolutely Nothing But Be Itself’
Listen to Podcast 2: ‘Grafted Landscapes’