Sunday, June 06, 2010

Music and a sense of place

I have lived in Coventry in the Midlands of the UK for the last 13 years (gosh, doesn’t time fly!), although I’m originally from South London. This summer I will be moving East to Suffolk.

Both my partner (who is an artist) and I aren’t linked to any particular area for our work. We can work from anywhere. This actually made it much harder to choose a place to move to!

Snowshill, Cotswolds

The move has set me wondering if a sense of place has any effect at all on my work.

I’ve never really felt that I belong to the English culture. I’ve always felt more at home in, say, Brazil or Spain, although I doubt if I have any Latin blood in me. The male line of my family tree goes back to 16th Century peasant farmers in Herefordshire!

But I’ve always been attracted to the crunchy harmonies and passion of Balkan singing or Fado from Portugal or South African gospel. I’ve never really been turned on by English folk (too many words!).

I did try to find a ‘local’ song once for a gala concert in Stamford, Lincolnshire. I came across the Lincolnshire Poacher quite quickly (although many other counties claim the song as their own), but settled on the Stamford Bullards, a rather boring slice of history from way back.

One English folk song (although not strictly ‘traditional’) that I do love happens to come from just up the road in Nuneaton: The Old Miner which I first heard on the Silly Sisters’ (June Tabor and Maddy Prior) LP: No more to the dance. But that’s just coincidence.

Apart from that, where I’m based has no effect whatsoever on which songs I teach. Much of my research these days relies on the internet. I can correspond with people from all corners of the globe, order song books from exotic countries, and find lyrics, recordings and background information on all sorts of music.

Maybe if I’d been born in Sheffield, the Hebrides or the East End of London, I might feel more connected to my locality.

Are you influenced in any way by where you’re based? Does your local area have a strong singing tradition? Do drop by and leave a comment.


Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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