Memorable night of music shows off the depth of local performing talent.
Jeff Gillett and Friends:
Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience
Marling School Sixth Form and Stroud High School Sixth Form lecture theatre.
Guitarists Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Jeff Beck, for instance are often happiest just playing. Here in Stroud we are fortunate to have Jeff, very much in their tradition of wide-ranging musical tastes.
Jeff, who is also a drama and English teacher at Marling, is passionate about Blake's Songs, written more than 200 years ago but suited to Jeff's lightness of touch.
The group's skilful ensemble playing would be impossible without their well-established individual experience, giving a different treatment to each of the almost 50 songs.
Their folk background made the Songs of Innocence suitably light and upbeat, complemented by the visuals provided by local head teacher Martin Fry, who filled the screen between the musicians with Blake's own illuminated words to each song, surrounded by local country scenes. Particularly memorable were Jeff's guitar work and Elaine fine ensemble singing and playing on The laughing Song, The Little Black Boy, and Night, and Elaine Gillett's moving vocals on the The Lamb and most especially on the Cradle Song where her voice and Jeff's melody combined in a song that would triumph as a Christmas single.
The darker Songs of Experience bought out the full range of group's tastes and skills, with touches of Mark Knopfler, Billy Bragg, and Ry Cooder in Jeff's multi-instrumental playing, which even included a suitably dead note from a red metal ladder.
I recommend readers buy the CD of this outstanding productions, available in Kane's Records.
English teacher's musical tribute to poet's work.
Jeff Gillett teaches English and drama at Marling School and wanted to find a way of making Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience easier for his sixth-form English students to remember.
He began setting them to music and found that he was completely hooked.
"The aim was to write tunes which would be memorable in their own right, but which would enable the poems to speak for themselves.," he said.
"The music had to enhance the mood of the song and ensure that the accentuation demanded by the irregularity of Blake's metre could always be accommodated.
"At that time, I had no intention of writing a tune for every poem in the collection, but the more I worked on it, the more enthusiastic I became, both for the project and for the poems themselves."
The project proved so successful that Jeff has now recorded a CD of the tracks, which will be launched at a special concert on October 9.
The concert will feature Jeff Gillett on guitar, mandolin, dulcimer, concertina, bass, ladder, vocal, vocals from Elaine Gillett, Alison Gregory on cello, keyboard whistle, vocals, Cathy Brown on violin and mandolin, Alex West on flute and vocals and Colin Sillence on guitar, mandolin and vocals.
Visuals for the concert will be provided by Martin Fry, who is best known in musical circles for his work on Johnny Coppin's Christmas shows, but who is also an award-winning photographer. The show will include projections of Blake's original illustrated versions of the poems, together with Martin's photography.
Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience, October 9, Lecture Theatre, Marling School Sixth Form and Stroud High School Sixth Form 7.45pm, £10 adults, £5 full time students.
The CD will be available from Kanes Records.