Encountering Wordsworth is an inclusive large-scale music, poetry and multi-media partnership project that is part of Re-imagining Wordsworth, a celebration of the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wordsworth. It brings together primary schools and young composers in the Lake District to create a new composition inspired by Wordsworth and his relationship with nature.
(News item updated 29 May 2020)
About the project
Composer Laura Bowler, sound artist Dan Fox and musicians from Manchester Camerata orchestra Amina Cunningham and Naomi Atherton have worked with young composers drawn from previous Cumbria Calling projects and schools in South Lakeland including a special school in Kendal. Over a number of days they have worked with Laura, Dan, Manchester Camerata musicians and Orchestras Live’s music leader trainee Alice Phelps to compose music inspired by Wordsworth’s Duddon Sonnets and to take field recordings of the environment around Grasmere, close to Wordsworth’s home Dove Cottage. These will be incorporated into the final performance.
The piece represents the twists and turns of the river, its undulations and its changes of state, from small, calm and serene, to angry and fast flowing. It was due to be premiered at Ambleside Parish Church in April 2020, with local primary school choirs and the young composers performing alongside a small Manchester Camerata ensemble. A recording of the performance and documentary of the project will form part of Wordsworth Grasmere’s Still Glides the Stream exhibition. Due to Covid-19, the premiere performance is now planned for April 2021.
How we got here...
The project is a collaboration between numerous partners and artists, bringing their particular specialisms to the creative work. It is part of Cumbria Calling, a four-year collaboration between Orchestras Live, Cumbria Music Hub and Manchester Camerata and Wordsworth Grasmere’s Re-imagining Wordsworth programme. Encountering Wordsworth began life as a series of discussions between Wordsworth Grasmere, Cumbria Music Hub and Orchestras Live about how to involve the wider community in Cumbria in an exploration of Wordsworth’s work and philosophy through music and visual arts, before settling on the final concept in early 2019.
Creative work began with inspiration days with Wordsworth Grasmere during autumn 2019. The young composers and schools explored Dove cottage, learnt about Wordsworth’s life and poetry, wrote their own poems, went on a soundwalk to take field recordings of the environment in Grasmere and began to create their own music with Manchester Camerata. A series of workshops with each group followed focusing on different aspects of the creative work.
Cumbria Calling young composers have had a series of creative workshops and a residential weekend with the whole artistic team to focus on composing the new piece. They explored the Duddon Sonnets (first published 200 years ago this year) and ideas about the river as well as the environmental field recordings to begin to create their central ideas. The young composers were also joined by students from Sandgate School for an afternoon where they shared their musical ideas and improvised on these together, listening and learning about how to respond to each other musically in the moment.
Students at Sandgate School and music therapist Annie Ruscillo worked with Dan Fox and staff from Cumbria Music Hub in creative sessions exploring the responses of young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties to the environmental field recordings. This work will be creatively integrated into the new composition and performance.
Primary schools from Cockermouth, Windermere and Grasmere created their own poetry with poet Polly Atkins. They also explored their responses to and how to think about the environment they live in with Cumbria Development Education Centre. The children will come together as the choir for the premiere.
Throughout the project, Wordsworth Grasmere have been documenting the creative activity and will produce a documentary of the project to be included in their Still Glides the Stream exhibition alongside a recording of the premiere performance of the new piece. The exhibition will also feature the poetry, artwork and sounds created by participants.
Find out more about the project here:
Encountering Wordsworth is an inclusive large-scale music, poetry & multi-media project celebrating Wordsworth's 250th birthday featuring:
Cumbria Calling Young Composers
Fairfield, Grasmere and St Cuthbert’s Windermere Primary Schools
Composer: Laura Bowler
Sound Artist: Dan Fox
Co-produced by Cumbria Music Hub and Orchestras Live in partnership with Wordsworth Grasmere and Cumbria Development Education Centre. We are grateful for funding from Arts Council England, South Lakeland Council and the Scops Arts Trust.