Well, Anyone who was Anyone in Hastings was at ‘Clash’, including Hastings Battleaxe, the Philosopher and step-son Tom who is staying for the weekend. The A who were A were either in the (large) audience, or singing in one of the seven choirs. I had a special reason to go – to see friends’ poems performed as part of the production.
‘Clash’ was part of the Root 1066 Arts Festival commemorating the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.
Two members of our Stanza Group, Jill Fricker and Antony Mair (our group leader) were two of four poets asked to submit poems on various aspects of the Battle of Hastings/Norman Conquest, and these had been set to music and sung by the choirs. Several of us poetry persons came along on the night to support/applaud.
The venue, the atrium of the Sussex Coast College in Station Plaza, was spectacularly suitable, with tiers of balconies and staircases providing perching points for the choirs. The audience had been asked to perambulate round the downstairs area, but by and large, those that found seats stuck their bums in them and didn’t move, and the rest sat on the floor or stood at the back. I think this was probably better. Lots of people wandering around would have been distracting. Also, they only projected the words onto one smallish screen at ground-floor level, and people walking about would have hidden it. Note to organisers – if you do it again, hang the screen from a balcony higher up, like opera sur-titles.
The event had been pulled together by the excellent Barefoot Opera – I have been to their things before – see this post.
All the choirs were good, but I found two bits particularly memorable. Firstly, Jill’s poem ‘Saxon Signature’ performed by Hastings Calling, with Otto Albietz. I’ve heard the poem a couple of times before – it is a a poignant piece about Edith Swan-Neck, Harold’s wife, identifying his body from his tattoos. Next was Antony’s poem ‘The Oath’. This generated a stunning, dramatic performance from Opera South-East, with Ken Roberts. It featured impressive soloists, incuding a soprano (local singer Susannah Appleyard) singing from one of the highest balconies – spine-chilling stuff.
Mind you, any performance featuring massed choirs can scarcely go wrong.
Musical accompaniment was provided by assorted drummers and semi-random tinging of tubular bells.
Now, that’s one thing about Hastings I can’t get to grips with. It totally loves its drummers. No event can happen without compulsory bang-banging, bong-bonging, ting-tinging, rat-a-tat-tatting, thrub-a-dub-thrub-a-dub-dubbing and so on ad infinitum to the final crash of the big cymbal. Battleaxe knows that this is one area in which she will never pass as a true Hastinga. Sorry. Here’s another note to organisers/musical arrangers. If you do it again, how about adding the occasional plaintive wail of a solitary horn, maybe a bit of flute-type trilling, or even a martial trumpet blast?
I did try and video our poets’ pieces on my mobile phone. The first one I did, Jill’s piece ‘The Channel Watchers’ turned out fine. The second, Antony’s ‘Venite’, sounds OK, but my arm got tired so the visuals are rubbish. The two best bits mentioned above came later in the programme and never got filmed at all because my battery ran out. I have uploaded the two I have from You Tube, but if I get better recordings I will replace them. Here they are.
Well done, Hastings Stanza poets – it was exciting for us to watch, and was clearly doubly exciting for them!