Here are the latest ‘demo’ recordings from my songwriting collaboration with composer Chris Purcell – shared with the New England community and farther afield as part of an Arts Project called ‘Stories in Song’, generously funded by Arts North West and Regional Arts NSW. Since receiving the funding from Regional Arts NSW in July – which enabled Chris and me to pay guest vocalists from Armidale, Uralla, and Bellingen – we’ve recorded songs with local Armidale musicians Camille Dunsford and Greg Windred, and with Georgie Chorley, a Jazz Vocalist from Bellingen, and mezzo-soprano Ruth Strutt (formerly from Uralla) who has been working as a Principal Artist with Opera Australia. I really love hearing other people’s renditions of these songs, and Chris and I are both keen to continue working with guest vocalists as we record the remaining 20 songs from our collection. Stay tuned … 

Ruth Strutt [Image: Sally Flegg Photography]
Georgie Chorley [Image: Peter Toming]

Holy heck … what a busy time it’s been! In April, I attended my formal graduation ceremony at the University of New England, where I was one of only ten PhD graduates who got to wear a flowing red gown and black beret. We certainly stood out in the crowd, and it all felt very exciting and Harry Potterish. Although I officially became Dr Pastor in January this year, the ceremony really helped to bring about a sense of resolution to all those years of hard work, and I’m so glad that three of my four children and a few friends were there to see me graduate.

Also, in May and July, Christopher Purcell and I organised two ‘Red Rug Sessions’ at Black Dot Music Store in Armidale. Black Dot owner, Tony Elder, regularly hosts informal concerts by local and visiting musicians in his store, and the ‘Red Rug’ sessions are well attended by the local community. Tony sets up comfy chairs and lounges around a shaggy red rug, dims the lights, and people sit back and listen to the music. There’s even a lucky door prize where the winner receives a jar of Tony’s delicious homemade chilli sauce. Chris and I thought the intimate atmosphere of Black Dot would be the perfect venue to premiere songs from our current collaboration: Lullaby & Lament – A Song Cycle. This project, for which I’ve written the lyrics and Chris has composed the music, features songs that relate the joys and sorrows of human life. At the first Red Rug concert, we ‘tested the water’ with four songs from the cycle along with a number of other songs that we’d written separately. The Lullaby & Lament songs were particularly well received … this collaboration rocks!

RED RUG SESSION 25 May 2016

For the second concert, Chris accompanied mezzo-soprano Ruth Strutt (Opera Australia) who sang twelve songs from the cycle to a record-breaking crowd at Black Dot. Hearing the songs performed by a singer of Ruth’s caliber was such a treat … and I feel very fortunate to have Ruth on board with this project. I also thought it was a positive sign when someone pressed $35 into my hand after the concert and said: ‘Put this towards the cost of a recording.’ Sure! Then, at the end of the night, a friend gave me the lucky door prize (which he had just won) … Tony’s ApricHot Chilli Sauce! All in all, the Red Rug sessions were a wonderful experience, and Chris and I hope to do another one towards the end of the year. But first, over the next few months, Chris will be finishing the instrumentation for the song cycle, and then we’re hoping to receive some funding to record Lullaby & Lament with Ruth Strutt when she’s next in town. Exciting times, folks … exciting times!

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