Words by Oz Hardwick and Music by Peter Byrom-Smith
Performed by Benjamin Lindley (voice) and Adam Parrish (piano)
Two well respected contemporary artists, whose work has been produced and performed around the globe coming together on a real ‘one off’ project – ‘The House of Memory’ we have the opportunity to expect something pretty special. Poet Oz Hardwick collaborated with composer Peter Byrom-Smith, who is also a very good friend, they do have a lot in common both artistically and socially too, including the love of ‘Prog-Rock’ and ‘Folk’. They had known each other for quite a long time, and as good friends, really wanted to do something together, sharing their different, but complementary arts, creating something totally original and inspiring for both of them! Oz wrote a sequence of poems which drew from his grandfather’s writing, and also from memories of the stories he would tell, which were so influential on Oz’s development. ‘The House of Memory’ , a sequence of poems, each of which have been published individually in journals and anthologies around the world, and a very personal response to memories of Oz and his family on his mothers side. The two artists sat down to do their stuff Oz, writing the poems whilst Peter waited for new words to arrive, so he could get his head around each set of words and start thinking on how it was all going to work out. This, of course, enabled them both to work together closely, sharing each others thoughts, as the compositional process was in free flow, so to speak, and the whole collection of poems, including a recurring Haiku, have now been successfully set to music as a song cycle for Baritone and Piano. Peter decided the best way of achieving a complete and artistic creation, was to use the Haiku as a link between all the main poems/songs. In a way, the whole album is a true an addition to the british songbook – folk/classical in feel, with clarity of word settings, with deep expression of musicality. Composers such as Benjamin Britten and his songs spring to mind here. Both the words, and music work on an individual level, yet when they come together we get something on a much higher plain. Receiving its ‘premiere’ in York at a concert in 2016, and performed by the same musicians as on this recording, it proved a popular and talked about success, hereby keeping everything on a very personal and emotional continuity, which makes for a deeply, moving and creative experience by everyone involved in its production. Indeed after this first live performance, the decision to make a recording, thereby sharing the song cycle far and wide, was really inevitable. Performed by Benjamin Lindley (baritone) and Adam Parrish (piano), both of who produce some wonderful, and expressive phrasing and control of our auditory senses, as listeners. As they have already performed the work live, they already knew how each other thinks, which makes for a pretty tight recording session. Recorded at Blueprint Studios, in Salford, as a lot of Peter’s work is, it proved a real good choice, as Gaz Hadfileld know’s him pretty well, and what he’s after, so did a pretty cool job, as always.
So, with this background in place, here’s what it’s all about!!
’The House of Memory’
The Haiku makes it’s first appearance here. A slow intro on piano, repeated, before the first entrance of the voice. A uneasy feel is created, with the modal style.
’Stars Like Sentinels’
A great dramatic, and rhythmic piano start, as the voice enters, with a feeling of power, passion and speed. A nice refrain makes regular appearances, slowing the song, before it carries on, forward , and forward to a great ending. The duets between the piano and vocals work a treat.
’The House of Memory 2’
The haiku, again, but changed slightly, and a more positive mood.
credits’Stars Like Sentinels’’The House of Memory 2’‘In A Glass House’’The House of Memory 3’
‘In a Glasshouse’
The powerful beginning spells out the drive behind Oz’s words, and what we hear. The main part of the gives us a lovely feeling, and longing, reflective song. Repeated piano patterns, give a feeling of completeness, and the breaks in sounds add to the expression. Some tremendous timing going on here too, which works. All the while, we here a few hints of the main, epic final song ‘Oaklands’ giving us a tease of whats to come. Wonderful combination, voice and piano answer one another, then we’re back to the powerful for an abrupt end.
’The House of Memory 3’
As you’d now expect, the Haiku appears in another key, and produces an uneasy, questioning.
This is truly beautiful, the voice spells out the poetry out with such clarity, and feeling. A slightly melancholy song, but in a good way. In certain sections, the chords are both colourful, but rhythmically unevenly spaced, which creates a tension, and uncertainty, while the voice declares the poets thoughts – works brilliantly. Again, a short hint of ‘Oaklands’ appears, weaving it’s way through, and into our head. The ending is exquisite in it’s final phrase.
’The House of Memory 4’
The trickling piano accompaniment underlies this version of the Haiku
The most important song on the recording, tells us a story of the environment, and where we are, what we believe and hope. By far the longest song too, it bring together all the themes fragments, a clever and inspired way of tying all the elements together into a whole cycle of songs. The chorus here, is really terrific, whilst the verses provoke, and interludes halt and question. Yes, indeed, this is what good songwriting is really about. The poem is so cool, bringing all of Oz Hardwick’s real passion to the fore – it works in all respects. I particularly love the ’…tickle fish from, tickle fish from……’ trust me, just listen to the words, they are tremendous. There is also space for some nice solo piano work too.
’The House of Memory 5’
The final appearance of the Haiku, which draws a conclusion to this true british song experience. As always, the piano plays it’s accompaniment, weaving it’s way to the end. We feel positive a positive key coming on, as the words make their first complete statement – in fact the first time the Haiku is complete in itself. We’ve actually been waiting for this ’signing off’ as it were, of the whole set of poems, as the journey completes, and we find ourselves considering all we’ve heard and experienced on this truly magical, is that right word? Yes, I do think it is here. These repeated patterns in each Haiku work exceptionally well, as most of the time they provide a pretty solid support for the voice which sings in a different metre, melodic rhythm, so provides that feeling of unease, but also expectation, which is a brilliant way of leading the listener into each song.
So, there we have it, a tremendous addition to the British songbook, a song cycle of memories, plenty of questions, images, etc, etc. Both Oz Hardwick and Peter Byrom-Smith should feel pretty happy with the result, and am sure their are a lot of music and poetry lovers out there, who will absolutely love this. It is almost ‘Folk – Opera’, yes, I do know there’s no such thing, but maybe this is just ‘the start of something’, eh, well, I hope so!!
Review by Nimrod