We sit down with Gareth Churcher, composer of the music performed by St Keverne band for The Mother’s Bones.
You have worked with Abigail before on Double Brass. Could you tell me how your collaboration began and why you were keen to be involved in these projects?
Abigail made contact with me quite a few years ago and after an initial discussion and hearing her ideas for a site specific performance at Kestle Barton with a local brass band I was immediately excited about the project. Her concept of using a local brass band in a moving performance was something that was intriguing; brass bands are used to marching and playing but this was to be a totally different type of moving performance and the added bonus of being asked to write a specific composition for this performance was something I was really keen to get involved in. The celebration of the summer solstice and referring to the times of the druids making their pilgrimages all intertwined with local history of the land in question was a perfect inspiration to write the piece.
What is special/unusual/challenging about this project for you?
This project is one of the most challenging pieces of work I have undertaken to date. The style of composition required is not my normal style of writing so I will be working out of my comfort. The music writing will be unusual also as we will need to have free passages of music, aleatoric patterns and work with the space and structures of the quarry. However, it will be special to not just me but the band and local members of the community as post war, the band membership was primarily from the workers with the 2 surrounding stone quarries in St Keverne, one of these being Dean Quarry.
How is the creative process of working with Abigail different to the work you normally do with St Keverne Band?
The creative process in this project is so different to the ‘normal’ music making that I enjoy with St Keverne Band. Normally the band will give concerts and perform at local and national compositions all within a very formal setting. The band will normally sit down in 2 semi circles and play to, hopefully, an engaging and enthusiastic audience. We will be asking the band to not just perform and record the music, but also asking them to move in a unique fashion to them and be filmed which, can be very daunting! All the while without having the communication with the audience that can help in terms of raising the standards of performance.
Can you tell me a bit about how you started as a composer?
I took an interest in composing at an early age after being inspired by my father who, without having any formal music education, could sit at the piano and create music. From his lead I explored this very same process but at the same time having a music lessons on both Trombone and Piano. I studied GCSE and A level music which, had elements of composition but apart from this I had received no further training in composition. After leaving college I studied accountancy but soon realised that my passion was music and in actual fact I had a real love for teaching, therefore I decided to explore this further and after gaining a licentiate diploma with the Trinity College of London embarked on a peripatetic teaching career. All the while I was composing and I had my first larger worked performed at a national brass band competition by 20 bands which was a very proud moment, I have now had further larger works performed internationally, the latest being New Zealand. To develop my composition skills I have just recently graduated with a Masters of Fine Art specialising in composition. My current role as Head of Service for the Cornwall Music Service Trust (CMST) allows me to work with over 100 superb musicians who deliver music education all over Cornwall to nearly 10,000 children.
What is special about St Keverne Band? What drives you to be involved?
St Keverne band has such a wonderful community spirit, very keen to perform and compete all over the country but never to forget the local area in terms of performing for tea treats, carnivals etc. As a cohort of musicians they are keen to work hard, will always be open to new ideas and fortunately for Abigail and I, innovative projects. The band has an amazing youth development scheme that works closely with CMST and the local schools to allow children equitable access to music making. The music making is of a high standard and the musicians give back to me in terms of effort just as much as I give to them.
Can you give me a favourite moment or anecdote about working on this film?
Without doubt the final scene which, I was privileged to be involved with, but I shall say no more as this would give too much away!