Listen to A Homely Blessing here.

At the end of 2021, Ruth Carlyle asked me to arrange one of her poems, A Homely Blessing, as a song for her new album. Excited by the challenge, I began work on creating a setting that was jazzy and inspired by popular music, knowing that this would be a departure from Ruth’s usual style. From an artistic perspective, this was a challenge in that the poem only has 3 stanzas, each with only 4 lines, however this gave room for greater scope with the harmonic progression and interpretation. This was an exciting composition project as it’s always a pleasure to collaborate with other artists. The recording features David Barton on the piano.

A Homely Blessing has been released today and the profits from this project will go towards the Faith in Action Homeless Project.

Ruth’s husband, Nic Carlyle, had the following to say about the project:

A Homely Blessing has been a special commission for Ruth and myself, for we have seen how important a sense of home is. We were very happy that Helen Sanderson White agreed to set Ruth’s words to music. Between 2011 and 2016, Ruth and I were both volunteers with a south London charity formed by local faith groups, Faith In Action Homelessness Project, who provided support to homeless and vulnerably housed people in the Merton Borough area. While Ruth acted as a trustee, I helped with the running of the showers and the laundry. Twice a week, in a local social hall, the group cooked a hot meal, with supplementary breakfasts and hot drinks, a warm social space, washing facilities and showers, a laundry service, as well as advice and referral services. For a few hours a week, something like basic home comforts were available to sixty to eighty people. For these people, home was something that had been lost along the way, ripped out of their lives, and now a struggle to regain. The second verse was something the group aimed for, the basics of food, shared together, extending a warm welcome, and finding friendship in a cruel, uncaring and unforgiving city. Ruth and I earnestly hope that home in all senses of the lyrics are found again within the lives of the people we met. It is to them we dedicate and sing this blessing, and any profits or donations go to Faith In Action Homelessness Project.

You can listen to the song here or make a donation to the Faith In Action Homeless Project here.

Well it seems a long time ago now, but last year I recorded some more vocals for Darren Hayman’s new project Thankful Villages Volume 2, the long awaited follow up album to Thankful Villages. You may remember that I sang on Darren’s Chants for Socialists album back in 2014 which was recorded at Kelmscott House in Hammersmith.

So…what is a thankful village? Well it’s a village where every soldier returned alive from World War I. This, when you think about the death toll during the first world war, is quite remarkable and to be celebrated. This is a very exciting project as it was supported by Arts Council England funding in a move to help preserve our history through music and art. In a world obsessed with filming everything on mobile phones and social media, history recorded through song and art seems quite refreshing.

Darren has collated well known, mysterious and often controversial stories from these UK hamlets, weaving a rich tapestry of history and intrigue from around our small island. He has been touring the UK over the the last few months, showcasing both the songs and also his beautiful artwork that was inspired by some of his visits to the thankful villages. I was lucky enough to be invited to sing the backing vocals on Wrigsley and I was also part of the choir on Arkholme. If you love British stories and folk music, check out this niche album! To hear Thankful Villages Volume 2 and download your copy, click here.

 

Well this year st983844_922301214476654_5567301080221672945_narted off with a bang! My first gig of the year was with Darren Hayman singing the Chants for Socialists at Union Chapel in London. Despite the fact that it was FREEZING, the place was packed and Daylight Music reported their highest audience turn out ever!   The whole event was amazing and the feedback has been wonderful! Definitely one to tick off the bucket list.

As you can see from the photo below, I was the shortest singer by far (and I’m very proud of that) and I think wearing a bright electric blue jumper may have been a mistake… cue the Smurf! Feel free to ridicule me about this, to be fair, my family already has; it was my daughter who noticed my fashion faux pas. It gets worse though, there are lots and lots of press photos of this event, so I will be immortalised forever as the singing Smurf…

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The beginning of February saw us perform the Chants at the William Morris Society in Hammersmith. A much warmer gig this time and smaller too and actually in one of William Morris’ houses which was exciting. There was an intimate audience of about 40 people as opposed to 650 at Union Chapel. There was a Q and A session afterwards which contained some hilarious and some what mysterious questions about the project.

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We were described as Leonard Cohen and the 5 Linda Rondstadts which let’s face it, is much better than being described as a singing Smurf. This photo was taken during our rehearsal hence why we’re all stood in our coats with cups of tea, however I think a mug could become the new performance accessory depending on it’s contents!

I’ve been very excited about the vinyl version of the album (which I sang on); I’m mainly excited about the COLOUR! You can find the album on Darren’s website.

So if I started the year with a bang, how on earth am I going to top it? I’ve know idea, but watch this space… In the words of Saint Yazz “The Only Way Is Up”.