Hannah Fredsgaard-Jones describes her first meeting with Voices of Exmoor as part of their Adopt a Music Creator 2022 collaboration.
As I travelled to Exmoor to attend an introductory workshop at Dulverton Town Hall, I was greeted by an orange sun setting on the horizon. Nearer my destination the roads turned winding, the hedgerows tall and the landscape enveloping me seemed gentle and wild all at once. There had been no exaggeration in the answers to “what is special about Exmoor?” which was one of three questions that I had asked the choir to respond to before we met. Fragments of the responses sounded in my head as I took in the scenes:
'… never overwhelming or threatening – its gentleness comes through in every season - although it can of course be wild at times.'
I wondered what a choir piece that is both wild and gentle sounds like.
Choir director Amanda Taylor had arranged for the evening to begin with a ‘Voices of Exmoor’ mini concert with mentor Lynne Plowman and me as audience members. What a welcome and a great introduction to the choir and their unique sound! You could really hear that sense of 'release and joy' as it had been described by a choir member in response to another one of my questions 'what do you like about singing?'.
After the concert I taught the choir a segment of an old folk song that I grew up with. Inspired by the distinctive, black leaf buds arranged in clusters on an ash tree’s branch, we experimented with harmonies and dissonances, building on phrases from the folk song.
Hannah's handmade notebook and recorder
At the end of the evening, I presented the choir with a handmade notebook to document our composition process. It is a notebook for collecting ideas and thoughts as the project progresses. The book is made from recycled paper and held together with a waxed thread. Put together with commitment and curiosity, a little rough around the edges and about to be transported back and forth between Exmoor and Oxford a whole lot. Perhaps the composition process will bear some resemblance to that? Hopefully the book will end up being our testament to a joyous, fun, and creative composition project.
As I made my way back home along the winding roads, I wholeheartedly agreed with one of the new scribbles that had been added to the notebook: 'the sound the choir made this evening was beautiful and I think we will make something wonderful together.'
The Adopt a Music Creator project matches vocal and instrumental leisure-time music groups with some of the UK’s most promising music creators to collaborate on creating a new piece of music. The project leads to a premiere performance and possible broadcast. If you’re a music group or music creator and you’d like to take part, find out more.