Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Dance of the Ribbons

 Fiona Winter
Director of Energy Moves

One of my film shoots will be based at a Wind Farm and to inform the writing of this piece, I have consulted with the community via face book to see what the reaction to them would be. Nearly 50 people responded and what I found is that opinion was polarised: People either loved them or loathed them, there were no in-between comments. This is not off course empirical research, it’s a feel for opinion. A social scientist would say that the type of people who would respond to a question like this would have strong opinion either way, and those without strong opinion will not respond

Comments in the negative scale ranged from :

'They are monsters, Giants striding across our hills'

'They are not environmentally friendly enough to warrant them, they should be in the sea.'

'They make goats go mad if they are underneath them so imagine what they are doing to us'

Positive comment example range as follows:

'They are so beautiful for our children’s future'
'We’re just trying to be better humans'
'We've already got pylons & they are better than that.'
'We need to harness the wind before we run out of other energy source.'

So I decided to write a piece that reflected both sides of the argument.

I went to every vantage point I could find in the village of Alltwalis and filmed the turbines, editing them in slow motion. It felt very eerie, so I began writing a piece of computer generated music with an industrial undercurrent, where I could sample and mix in live recordings of local industry, water mills etc

Whilst I was working on this, I happened to be listening to Classic FM in the car, and Elgar’s welsh Tune came on.

He composed Welsh Tune whilst he was holidaying in Cardigan Bay, it is said that it was Llangrannog. (Will pop down there for a visit to see if I can find the commemorative plaque) 

Written for the newly-formed London Symphony Orchestra, Elgar's Introduction and Allegro, Op. 47, is scored for a string quartet that is contrasted with the full string ensemble in the manner of a Baroque concerto grosso. Elgar described the development as "no working-out part, but a devil of a fugue instead." In the Introduction, Elgar assigns the solo viola a theme that he described as a "Welsh Tune," a distant snatch of melody heard on a visit to Cardiganshire. The "Welsh Tune" functions as a poignant refrain that is always only half-remembered, for this melody is invariably interrupted by more energetic thematic material. Elgar's peroration hurtles towards a grand restatement of the "Welsh Tune," but the quizzical final pizzicato chord airily undercuts the triumphal music that precedes it. http://www.victorianweb.org/mt/elgar/scheer.html

Welsh Tune is the 3rd part (I think it's in the 1st Movement but I could be wrong, will check this. It may be in the 3rd Movement) and I found it a little too intense as a piece to describe my West Wales. His Cardigan Bay is different to what I would have painted with sound, but then I thought, the layered and textured heaviness of his string section could inform the feel of my computerised piece to relect those heavier comments about wind turbines, and in homage to Elgar's work, I could add live strings to the movement by asking Heather Summers to come to the studio & record  samples for the piece.


Here is a little film of rare home movie footage of Elgar & his family to give you an insght into his work.He was probably one of, if not the first composer to work within the contect recording

Meanwhile my 2nd Movement  will represent the very positive comment range about the turbines, in my mind I saw these opinions like coloured ribbons attached to the turbines, as if they were toys in a child’s sand pit, with comments such as ... 'after all, it is our children’s future that we want to make a difference to.'

When I went to film underneath the turbines, I knew straight away that the filmscape should be a child's Dance of the Ribbons led by my very good friend Fiona Winter, Director of Energy Moves and life long dancer.

 Fiona Winter
Dance of the Ribbons
Photo by Carl Stringer

I have worked with Fiona Winter many times. It is her home where this journey started: Pen Beili Cottage. She is inspirational as an artist, but more generally as a person. She has learnt how to harness and live joy in a way that does not compromise the whole. You cannot help but smile in her company. She is for me, like an ethereal spirit, a flower fairy ... I can actually physically feel Fiona’s presence even though she is miles away from me. To the extent that I imagine her right now, stirring in her sleep, somehow subconsciously aware that I am writing about her.

In February this year, I organised and Directed The Story Telling Weekend: Children’s Tale Trail for The National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire. I had seen Fiona working with her ribbons on canes in her Nia Dance classes and loved the movement. It reminds me of the lithe acrobats in the gymnastics who dance and twirl on the large mats, but the way Fiona leads, makes the movement accessible to everyone through movement and energy, whether stood or seated.

I had a vision for the story weekend based on consultation with the children and asked Fiona to lead a Dance of the Ribbons, dressed as a fairy to move the trail of children from The Great Glasshouse, through the flowers to the next venue. It was beautiful.

It needed music ... a live musician who could be mobile, a travelling minstrel. I managed to get funding from Community Music Wales for Heather Summers to be our resident minstrel for the whole event. She dressed the part and was an absolute dream to work with, playing wherever, whenever, reading the trail, responding to the volunteer and children needs.

The Fiddle Minstrel and the Ribbon Fairy worked very well together indeed. They had never met before. I recorded Heather’s violin piece and sent it to Fiona to step out before the event. They had a chat before the trail and looked like they had worked together for years.

Fiona Winter
Dance of the Ribbons
Photo by Carl Stringer

Can you see how this is all falling together! So Heather would already be part of the first heavy string piece and now we take a string section into this light ribbon-y piece ... a piece to go round and round , A REEL! It popped into my head almost immediately.

I want the children to represent the future in the piece, but also keep mindful of that which we can learn from the past, as well as holding onto our cultural and historical context, so the children will be dressed in full welsh costume.

When I was directing Celtic Women, Mrs Starkey the Head teacher for Johnstown Primary school came with her children to perform a song I had facilitated the children to write about Jemima Fawr. They were dressed in welsh costume so beautifully that you would easily believe the costumes were professionally made for a period TV set.

Mrs Starkey is a very special Head teacher. I would go as far as to say that she is visionary. The children adore her, the school is beautifully adorned with wonderful art work, the children’s identity runs from the core making them excited about their education. It is an absolute joy to work as part of her team.

We had a meeting to discuss Fusion Inspire and to explain that this project is very different to my ordinary pattern of working, where I would be supporting the children to create and lead, rather Fusion Inspire is led my me, it is artist led.

Mrs Starkey had the genius idea of including the children from the Johnstown Primary School Eco Council, and to make the work part of their general debate about Wind Farms, which would then be accredited towards their Platinum Environmental Award.

I had a brief meeting with the Eco Council, 23 children from every year of the school and I’m booked to go and have a more in-depth discussion about the story line with them this week.

Mrs Starkey has very kindly agreed to cover the cost of the transport for the children, who will come in their welsh costumes to dance the ribbons under the wind turbines, accompanied by a fiddle player. I will film this sequence and edit it for my Fusion Inspire filmscape

In keeping with the notion of our history when planning our future, I have invited Ceri Rhys Matthews to play Welsh Hornpipes with us dressed as a fisherman. He will represent Dafydd the Fisherman, our main character.

Picture taken from Wikipedia

And we may have an additional member of the team if she decides to join us .... will tell all in my next blog!


1 comment:

  1. Fantastic how you melded the elements together Cheryl!


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