16 febbraio 2014

Il concerto di Glad Day della settimana scorsa, ambientato nella 'chiesa dei poeti' di St Giles-in-the-Fields a Londra, si è tenuto per iniziativa dei Westbrook assieme all'associazione di volontariato Simon Community, da mezzo secolo impegnata a favore dei senzatetto della capitale. Richard Williams ne scrive al suo blog The Blue Moment, con un'interessante premessa: "The parish church of St Giles-in-the-Fields turned out to be the perfect place for last night’s performance of Glad Day, Mike Westbrook’s settings of William Blake’s poetry. Situated close to the modern junction of Charing Cross Road, Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road and New Oxford Street, and known as the Poets’ Church, the present building was completed in 1733 on the site where first a monastery and chapel and then earlier churches had ministered to lepers (St Giles is their patron saint) since the 12th century. The first victims of the Great Plague of 1665 were buried in its garden. Blake was born in nearby Soho and in his time the church stood next to the warren of dwellings known as the Rookery, London’s most notorious haunt of thieves and prostitutes, immortalised in Hogarth’s Gin Lane drawings and Dickens’s Sketches by Boz. It’s a gentler place now, although had Blake, Hogarth and Dickens been living today they might have been interested to leave the church, turn left down Denmark Street, cross Charing Cross Road and witness the sights of 21st century Soho on a Saturday night."


L'evoluzione compiuta dal programma westbrookiano sulla poesia di Blake nell'arco di oltre quarant'anni è richiamata da Chris Parker nella sua recensione per LondonJazz, dove sono indicate anche le varie tappe discografiche: "Initially composed for Adrian Mitchell’s National Theatre production, Tyger, many of the songs in this programme of William Blake poems set to Mike Westbrook’s music date back to 1971. Material has been added over subsequent years for performances by the composer’s Brass Band, for a 1980 Impetus recording, Bright as Fire, an Enja album, Glad Day in 1997, and – most recently – a DVD and CD, Glad Day Live (Westbrook Records), documenting a 2008 performance utilising the forces (two singers, jazz quartet, large choir) deployed on this occasion, a concert presented by the Simon Community, a charity for the homeless. The songs have also been sung (usually by Kate Westbrook and Phil Minton, the performers here, at St Giles-in-the-Fields) with various local childrens' choirs, initially in Blackheath in 1996, but also – using the instrumentation of this concert, accordion, violin, piano, bass – to mark the 250th anniversary of Blake’s birth in 2007 at the Foundling Museum as part of the St Pancras Festival of Contemporary Music. This history is worth tracing in such detail because it shows how important the Blake settings have been in Mike and Kate Westbrook’s careers to date; indeed, they neatly encapsulate many of the Westbrooks’ most dearly held artistic beliefs: above all in the power of literary texts to move and inspire, but also in the importance of allowing notions of social justice, consequent upon engagement with historical, political (and spiritual) complexity, to inform their music."

Una ripresa amatoriale della prima parte del concerto dello scorso 8 febbraio - London Song Let the Slave, con la vibrante declamazione di The Price of Experience che tradizionalmente Mike Westbrook riserva per se stesso - è su YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/photocronista