VERY PRESENT TENSE
A song cycle charting the passage of a grief
Written in response to the loss of my mother, Very Present Tense is a testament of love and a statement of becoming. The songs, referencing diverse musical idioms like blues and Rwandan folk, were developed in collaboration with Tom Havelock to create an intimate harmonic landscape of loss, love and hope.
“These songs have been companions, composed at my piano, wandering through streets and sung into cassette recorders on train platforms. I chose to write a song cycle because I wanted to create a work that accumulates, evolves and transforms just as the passage of a grief does. It is also a recognition of the writing process, of assembling fragments into a whole, the arrangement and rearrangement of one’s life that grief demands.
My mother was born in Rwanda and in some songs I sing in her mother tongue Kinyarwanda, emulating songs I listened to with her on old cassettes. In others I sing in a language known only to me, as I used to do when making up songs as a boy. My other musical traces come, perhaps, from my Irish father and my affection for the blues.”
The composition and performance were supported through a residency at Metal. Very Present Tense premiered as part of METAL’S 2008 Capital of Culture programme.
Voice: Christopher Simpson, Piano: Tom Havelock, Violin: Lorraine Kelly and Lucy Butler, Viola: Elisa Bergerson, Cello: Rebecca Cox, Double Bass: Sam Lasserson, Trumpet: Rory Simmons, Saxophone: Zac Dimitri
Very Present Tense is sung with piano accompaniment or with an ensemble comprising piano, string quartet, double bass, trumpet and saxophone.
Artwork by Christopher Simpson
Calligraphy by Christopher Austin