What is it about Wirral that inspires some of the region’s most forward-thinking musicians? Forest Sword’s new work continues to mine the screes of Thurstaston for its earthly energies, Bill Ryder-Jones seeks solace in his mum’s West Kirby house when he’s in need of a homely vibe for his recording sessions and, this week, Wirral-born composer Joe Hillyard returns to West Kirby for the premier of his newest work inspired by the shimmering views across the town’s marine lake, and on to the mountains of North Wales.
‘View Across the Estuary’ will be performed by contemporary music group, Mersey Sound Ensemble, in a concert on 13th July in Hoylake. The event’s presented by Hoylake-based singer, songwriter and composer Rachel Nicholas, and aims to bring contemporary music to new audiences as part of Wirral’s engaging Festival of Firsts. See, it’s not just Manchester that promises a festival of new commissions. Sure, Wirral lags behind on budget, but with ambitious pieces like this, it’s good to see the peninsula aiming high.
“Lately, I’ve been working to produce sounds such as ‘white noise’ that crescendo from nothing, fall away, then crescendo again,” Hillyard tells SevenStreets.
“This brings an organic element to the music, as well as a slowly pulsating character. I also tend use the rhythms of Math Rock, which deconstructs usual song structure and uses asymmetrical rhythms and irregular time signatures.” So far, so not Mathew Street Festival. We bet the NewPath collective would be impressed.
Rachel’s own piece, Mersey Sound, a regional soundscape with recorded sounds of the river, voices, transport and music, will headline alongside works by Howard Skempton, a leading light in British experimental music since the 1960s and a real coup for the Festival.
Twenty-three-year-old Hillyard and Nicholas are former classmates and pupils of West Kirby Grammar School. Rachel studied composition for four years at Birmingham’s Conservatoire before returning to Merseyside to continue her musical career, while in October 2012 Joe graduated with a distinction in his MMus (musical composition) masters degree at Cardiff University School of Music.
Since then, the young composer has worked on commissioned orchestrations for the Welsh Sinfonia as well as playing trombone in classical and jazz ensembles in Wales.
“When I heard that Rachel was organising a concert of new music inspired by the Wirral and Liverpool seascapes, I was keen to contribute. I’ve always loved the prom in West Kirby, and the panorama over the River Dee. The changing light, the broad skies and the rippled sands across to Hilbre Island and beyond always evoke a different mood, and give me so many ideas for my music.”
Mersey Sound by Rachel Nicholas and contemporary works by Howard Skempton, Joe Hillyard, Mark Jones, Daniel Thorne and William Marshall can be heard at St Luke’s Church, Hoylake, on Saturday 13th July, at 7.30pm. Tickets £5 (£4) – www.ticketswirral.co.uk or Help Shop, Hoylake – 0151 538 9655
Image: Carol Tinsley