Posts Tagged "music"

Sting: Rediscovering the Muse as The Last Ship Sails

Posted by on Jun 28, 2014

 “Some of the largest vessels ever

constructed on the planet were built

right at the end of my street.”


Sting grew up in the shadow of the shipyard, with giant ships rising into the air at the end of his street. Newcastle-Upon-Tyne was at the heart of the British shipbuilding industry.

Sting- The Last Ship

 The Dream

But instead of wanting to follow in the footsteps of generations of Tynesiders whose lives were inextricably linked with the docks and the shipbuilding industry, Sting had a different dream. It was one that grew exponentially with the discovery of a guitar in the attic at the age of 8 . “I was bequeathed a guitar and realised I had found a friend for life.”

 The dream would become his life and Gordon Sumner would become internationally known as the musician Sting, but first he had to turn his back on his roots and travel away. He had no desire to return to the traumatised society he witnessed during the closure of the ship building industry.

 “I believe there’s a symbiotic and intrinsic link between storytelling and community, between community and art, between community and science and technology , between community and economics.

It’s my belief that abstract economic theory that denies the needs of community or denies the contribution that community makes to economy is shortsighted, cruel and untenable”


 The muse Sting chose to follow as a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist was one that would bring us such unforgettable songs as   “Roxanne”, “Fields of Gold”, “Message in a bottle”, “Every Breath You Take” and “Englishman in New York”.

 Sting’s astonishing success both as a member of “The Police” and during his solo career, together with his prolific song-writing ability made it particularly difficult for him to come to terms with a long period of “writer’s block” which  stretched into years of self-questioning.

 He eventually acknowledged a need to return to his roots in Newcastle, a decision which was to reunite him with his muse and he has spent the past few years working on a theatrical production called “The Last Ship” – inspired by the demise of the shipbuilding industry in the North East. 

Sting released the album “The Last Ship” in 2013 and the musical production launched its pre-Broadway tryout in Chicago last Wednesday with songwriters Paul Simon, James Taylor and Dennis DeYoung watching from the orchestra seats, according to the review by Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune.

Political Activism

A sense of the injustices caused by corrupted power led Sting along the path of political activism, participating in many of the focal moments in which creative artists have joined forces to raise international awareness of major issues: Band Aid, Live Aid, Feed the World”, Live8 etc.

 His long involvement with Amnesty International which  began with his appearance at the “Secret Policemen’s Other Ball” in 1981 has inspired some of the songs he has written.
“Before that I did not know about Amnesty, I did not know about its work, I did not know about torture in the world” .

 Sting’s song “They Dance Alone”  threw a spotlight on the plight of the mothers, wives and daughters of “The Disappeared” (political opponents killed by the Pinochet regime) in Chile. These women, under constant threat from Pinochet’s infamous death squads, were afraid to voice their opinions publicly but would pin photos of their missing loved ones to their clothing and dance in public places in unspoken outrage.

Dendropsophus Stingi and The Rainforest Foundation

Sting, his wife Trudi and Raoni Metuktire, a Kayapó Indian leader in Brazil, founded the “Rainforest Foundation” to help save the rainforests and protect the rights of the indigenous people living in them.  (In recognition of his “commitment and efforts to save the rain forest”, a species of Colombian tree frog, Dendropsophus stingi, was named after him.)

In addition to 16 Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, an Emmy and several Oscar nominations. Sting has sold nearly 100 million records worldwide, was 62nd on Paste Magazine’s list of 100 Best Living Songwriters, 63rd on VH1’s “100 Greatest Artists of Rock” and 80th on A magazines “100 Greatest Musical Stars of the 20th Century”

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Mandela Day: You are The Power of Change

Posted by on Jul 14, 2013

Mandela Day: You are The Power of Change, One Step at a Time. What Will You Do?

Mandela Day is an international day in honour of Nelson Mandela,
celebrated annually on the 18th of July – Mandela’s Birthday.

It is a call to action for individuals – for people everywhere –
to take responsibility for changing the world into a better place,
one small step at a time, just as Mr Mandela did.


  Following the success of Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday celebrations in London’s Hyde Park in June 2008 and the 4664 concerts, it was decided that there could be nothing more fitting than to celebrate Mr Mandela’s birthday each year with a day dedicated to his life’s work and that of his charitable organisations, and to ensure his legacy continues forever.

 The day was officially declared by the United Nations in November 2009.  Mandela Day is not meant as a public holiday but is a global call to action that celebrates the idea that each individual has the  ability to make an impact and the power to transform the world.

 The Mandela Day campaign message is simple: Mr Mandela gave 67 years of his life fighting for the rights of humanity. All we are asking is that everyone gives 67 minutes of their time, whether it’s supporting your chosen charity or serving your local community.


Long Road to Freedom
On August 5th, 1962, an ordinary piece of road along the R103  about 3 kilometres outside Howick in KwaZulu-Natal took on extraordinary significance when armed apartheid police flagged down a car.

The man pretending to be the chauffeur had earned the nickname of the “Black Pimpernel” having evaded capture by the apartheid regime for 17 months. It was in this dramatic manner at this unassuming place that Nelson Mandela was finally captured and was to disappear from public view for the next 27 years.

 Mandela had just paid a clandestine visit to ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli to report on his African Odyssey. His meeting was also to request support for an armed struggle, after having spent most of his adult life trying to find peaceful ways in which to end the injustice and suffering caused by the system of Apartheid in South Africa, without success.

 50 years later on August 4th 2012, to mark the anniversary of the start of Nelson Mandela’s “long walk to freedom” a quietly powerful new sculpture was inaugurated and unveiled at this spot.

 The sculpture is comprised of 50 steel column constructions, each between 6.5 and 9.5 meters tall, set into the landscape of the Natal Midlands. The posts are staggered and the portrait of Nelson Mandela only comes into correct focus when the posts line up at a position 35 meters from the sculpture (a reference to the fact that Mandela proved notoriously difficult for the authorities to find).

 From this perspective the sculpture reads as a familiar photograph of Mandela, suggestive of his incarceration as one is aware it is comprised essentially of a series of steel bars, but seen from other angles the design splinters into a dynamic moment of fracture and release.

 The artist Marco Cianfanelli  comments on the deliberate structural paradox, that, “this represents the momentum gained in the struggle through the symbolic of Mandela’s capture. The 50 columns represent the 50 years since his capture, but they also suggest the idea of many making the whole; of solidarity. It points to an irony as the political act of Mandela’s incarceration cemented his status as an icon of struggle, which helped ferment the groundswell of resistance, solidarity and uprising, bringing about political change and democracy”.

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Rolling Stones Headline at Glastonbury

Posted by on Jul 2, 2013

Glastonbury is a small town in the Mendip district in Somerset, UK:

home to Glastonbury Abbey, one of the most important abbeys in England.

It’s also a town which attracts thousands of people interested in New Age or Pagan beliefs largely because of the myths and legends related to Glastonbury Tor.

These include references to the Holy Grail, King Arthur and Joseph of Arimathea, with some Arthurian literature identifying it as the legendary Island of Avalon.



Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts 

Internationally Glastonbury is best known as home to the most famous music festival in the world – The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts which includes dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret and other arts as well as contemporary music.

Festival organiser Michael Eavis is a local farmer who was inspired after seeing the open air Led Zeppelin concert at Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music, 1970 to host an open air festival on the the farm. 14 people invested everything they had to build the stage (many told them the idea would never catch on). The first festival was in 1970 – and the rest as they say, is history.

Rolling Stones Live at Glastonbury 2013

The Rolling Stones  headlined the Pyramid Stage, playing  to a crowd of over 170,000 (not bad for a group that has been around for 50 years).

Their gig started around 9.45 pm at the end of a beautifully sunny day in Somerset with  the crowd waiting in electric anticipation for the most high profile act ever to perform at Glastonbury (having taken 43 years to get there) . 

The Stones played a twenty song set including a version of “Factory Girl” which with specially adapted lyrics became “Glastonbury Girl”

“It was one of the greatest rock and roll sets I’ve ever seen in my life and I think one of the greatest rock and roll sets Glastonbury has ever seen”. “They really just rocked it. The band seemed almost as impressed as the crowd. I guess the audience makes the gig as much as the band.” Telegraph music critic Neil McCormick

Rolling Stones Glastonbury Song List:

‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’
‘It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll (But I Like It)’
‘Paint It, Black’
‘Gimme Shelter’
‘Glastonbury Girl’
‘Wild Horses’
‘Doom And Gloom’
‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’
‘Honky Tonk Women’
‘You Got The Silver’ ‘Happy’
‘Miss You’
‘Midnight Rambler’
‘2000 Light Years From Home’
‘Sympathy For The Devil’
‘Start Me Up’
‘Tumbling Dice’
‘Brown Sugar’
‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ ‘
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’

What the Posters Say

An interesting article by musician and writer,  Anya Pearson looks at festivals as an annual yardstick of Britain’s musical talent. By taking the much publicised Festival Posters and editing out all acts represented on the posters that do not include at least one female musician, she turns them into a barometer of gender equality in 21st Century Britain. “As a female musician currently in two mixed-gender bands, I have always been painfully aware of my minority status in the music scene.” she says.

Glastonbury 2013 Poster showing music acts appearing at the festival

Glastonbury Festival 2013 Poster showing list of groups performing


Glastonbury 2013 Poster – showing only acts that include
at least one female musician (34%).

Glastonbury Festival 2013 Poster - showing only acts which include at least one female musician


Glastonbury was not the worst offender for failing to represent female musicians, probably thanks partly to co-organiser of the event, Emily Eavis, but its poster still only had 34% of the acts that included female musicians.


Bestival 2013 Poster showing music acts appearing at the festival

Bestival 2013 - Poster showing music acts appearing at the festival


Bestival 2013 Poster showing only acts that include
at least one female (21%)

Bestival 2013 - Poster showing only acts appearing at the festival that include at least one woman


Reading and Leeds 2013: Poster showing music acts appearing at the festivals

Reading and Leeds 2013 Poster showing acts appearing at the festivals


Reading and Leeds 2013: Poster showing only music acts appearing at
the festivals which include at least one female (17%)

Reading and Leeds 2013 Poster showing only music acts appearing at the festivals that include at least one female (17%)

Pearson concludes:
“Still, festivals alone are not to blame: promoters, managers and record labels all play their part. As a society we are less encouraging of girls who aspire to headline Glastonbury. I was lucky. My mother is a musician who started out in the 70s and always told me my XX chromosome was no barrier to making music.

That said, there are lots of brilliant female musicians out there – as Yoko Ono’s Meltdown at the Southbank Centre proved. Women aren’t passive consumers of popular culture – we just often lack a creative platform to showcase what we can do.”

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True Colours: The British Paraorchestra

Posted by on Dec 25, 2012

The success of the British Paraorchestra, the world’s first ensemble of professional disabled musicians highlights the fact that millions of very capable and talented people across the world are totally excluded from participating in society simply because of predjudice. 
 Above: The British Paraorchestra perform their new single: True Colours.

Today at Buckingham Palace during the Queen’s Christmas Day Message the National Anthem was performed by the British Paraorchestra. They have become a well respected and familiar part of British music, but before the 2012 Paralympics very few people had even heard of them.

In the 2011 TED Talks video below, Conductor Charles Hazlewood speaks about the inspiration behind the orchestra, and introduces them as they make their first ever public performance.

Hazelwood talks of the universal power of music to communicate across language and cultural barriers, and asks why our musical culture excluded women from its major platforms until the 1960s, and why it still excludes disabled musicians today.

Where, he asks is their voice in society and why have they been rendered invisible.

It was in order to break this culture of exclusivity that Hazelwood formed the British Paraorchestra, the world’s first ensemble of professional disabled musicians. The quality of their music has inspired tens of thousands in Britain and beyond since they stepped into the international limelight with their performance during the closing ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games.

Even at their very first public performance, Hazelwood throws down the gauntlet to other countries saying: “Here’s our Paraorchestra, where’s yours?”

True Colours

The British Paraorchestra released the single “True Colours” on Monday 3 December 2012 – the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The single features The Kaos Signing Choir for Deaf & Hearing Children and the voices of ParalympicsGB.

The solo voice heard at the beginning and end of the track belongs to Lyn Levett, from the Paraorchestra. Lyn has cerebral palsy and cannot speak. With state-of-the-art technology she sings through her computer in True Colors, for the very first time.

 Proceeds from sales of the British Paraorchestra ‘True Colors’ will go towards supporting the ParalympicsGB team at the Sochi 2014 Winter Games,

  • to enable The Kaos Signing Choir for Deaf & Hearing Children set up a new Saturday Signing Choir and
  • to fund their next signed song DVD, and
  • for the future growth and development of The British Paraorchestra.
Non-Profit Organisation:

Support the British Paraorchestra 

“The British Paraorchestra is a non-profit organisation. We survive through donation and support from a variety of people and institutions. If you’d like to support us through donation please use the Paypal process on our website it’s secure, guaranteed and easy.

Most of our funding goes into facilitating travel and accommodation for our players, many of whom are dependent on full time personal assistants and travel with wheelchairs and other special equipment. As you can imagine that’s often a major challenge of logistics and accessibility.

We’re working hard to make every penny count and always welcome enquiries from people who want to help. Do contact us if you would like to talk about structural, corporate or institutional donations.

You can donate online, by cheque, bank transfer, credit or debit card and by post. Do get in touch if you need any other way of making a donation. Please make cheques out to British Paraorchestra, contact us for postal address.”

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The Florin Street Band: “My Favourite Time of Year”

Posted by on Dec 23, 2011

“The Florin Street Band” was put together by contemporary composer Leigh Haggerwood to record an original Christmas song he had written called “My Favourite Time of Year”.

His idea was to have the music video in a 19th century English setting with with period costumes, snow covered streets and rooftops lit by old fashioned lantern light.
He could not get the backing of any record companies to produce it as they did not think it would prove financially viable.

Leigh decided to go ahead and produce it himself and managed to get the help of 36 musicians including the English Chamber Choir.
British director Nick Bartleet helped to make the video a reality and as plans progressed, American cinematographer John Perez offered his services as Director of Photography.the extraordinary video was shot at Blists Hill Victorian Town at Ironbridge in Shropshire. Since their release in 2010, the song and video have received an unprecedented public response through social networking websites with many people describing it as a future classic.

Text Santa
Text Santa is a charity initiative that aims to raise money and awareness for nine charities over the festive season. The producers were keen to use “My Favourite Time of Year” as the theme music for the appeal, which Leigh agreed to. The Text Santa appeal was first broadcast by UK’s television network ITV in 2011.

As a gesture of good will, Leigh decided to donate all profits from UK downloads of the song in 2011, to the nine Text Santa Charities, along with the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust which was the location of his Victorian museum video, and a supporter of the Florin Street Band.

Florin Street Website:

Leigh Haggerwood’s website

The charities supported are:
Carers UK
Help the Hospices
Yorkhill Children’s Foundation
Helping Hand Charity
Noah’s Ark Appeal
Great Ormond Street Hospital Childrens Charity

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