Poetry and song with Hastings Battleaxe

Earlier this week I was one  of a group of poets participating in a poetry and song event at The Beacon, on the West Hill, part of  ‘The Challenge of Change’, a series of events organised by local music notable Marcio da Silvo, and involving the Hastings Philharmonic Chamber Choir.  Here are links to a couple of articles from Hastings On-line Times about it – this one, and this review of the evening.

The singers…

I’ve written about Marcio da Silvo’s work in transforming the Hastings Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra before, and we have been to a good few of their concerts.  This particular initiative is connected with a competition for new composers, for the Kemal Ataturk Prize. The concert where the composition prize is judged and awarded,  takes place this weekend.  I have to say, that in common with many people, I struggle a bit with new music – I always dislike going to concerts when in return for enjoying a well-known concerto or symphony, you have to yawn and wriggle through some new innovative-type piece that often sounds like cats yowling in the small hours… unfair, I know, but there you go.

But, back to the poetry. Antony, the leader of our Stanza poetry group had asked us to prepare poems that explored change, and might have some vague link to the programme the singers were producing, which was about changes in music through time. We didn’t find out what pieces the choir were singing until quite late on in the process, but I guessed that they would do the C19 romantic period piece of music, so chose to base my offering on a romantic narrative poem – Tennyson’s ‘The Lady of Shalott’. This meant picking out a section of the original poem to read out, and then writing a poem based on it.

Given our liking for all things Turkish, and the Ataturk theme, I wondered about doing something on that, but could’nt think of anything in time.  Did I ever say we once went to visit Ataturk’s birthplace, in Thessalonki, (formerly Salonica)? Well, we did. When we first went to Turkey, virtually every shop and every cafe had a picture of Ataturk – sadly much less so now.

Anyway, I decided to write something called a ‘glose’ or gloss poem, where you take a stanza from an orginal poem and use the lines in a new poem – one line per new stanza. My fellow poets seemed to quite like my effort, so I decided to go for it – but it meant hamming my way happily through a whole chunk of the original poem before getting to my own stuff.  Tirra lirra, sang Sir Lancelot.

Battleaxe hams it up…

The evening was surprisingly well-attended, but I don’t know how many of those were relatives and supporters of the eight poets and fifteen singers.. Philosopher came along, good man that he is.

The evening went really well, the combination of poetry and song seemed to work, and everyone seemed to enjoy our efforts. The singing ranged from Gregorian chant to Berio – I followed a bit of Brahms, which was quite appropriate.  I think if we did it again we’d need to tie in the poetry and the music more tightly.

The photos I took are ghastly – the lighting was bad, and the angle worse…. here is Antony, and poet colleague Robin…

I always get a bit nervous doing something like that – and even more nervous when I have to read out my own work, but I think I do OK. Hell, with my career background, speaking to groups holds no real terrors for me. And, of course I speak to bigger groups every month as local WI President.

By the way, talking of the WI, I have kept up my last year’s resolve of ‘de-platforming’ myself when it comes to big WI events. I just can’t be bothered with the hassle of watching what I say every time I open my mouth. This year, I deliberately did not put myself forward for election to any Federation officer role so I would not have to stand up at the Annual Meeting ever again.  Obviously, poetry and artsy-fartsy stuff is different – you don’t have to worry about being sweary, at least.

But Hastings Battleaxe still carries on, unquenched!  A while ago they showed the repeat of the ‘Have I got more News For You’ episode which featured the Hastings Battleaxe debacle, and I had a few more people tackling me about it… it is actually very funny.

Here’s Waterhouse’s ‘The Lady of Shalott’ to finish up. She should be lying down in that boat.


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