My search for inspiration started at Dyffryn House and Gardens which is where the piece will be performed.
I had “whizzed” around Dyffryn once before when I first met the choir but time was limited. On this visit I was accompanied to other areas of the historic house that I hadn’t seen on my last visit; I was particularly interested by a hole in the roof that showed the current progress of the restoration. Dyffryn House didn’t used to be open to the public but they have started restoring it room by room, this means that every visit is different and the ever changing nature of both the house and gardens gives the place an energy which excites me. Before the house started to be restored, the gardens were the main attraction.
One aspect I like about Dyffryn is the ability to touch things. The house was passed on to various owners (it was at one point a conference centre) and a lot of the original furnishings were lost. Although this could be seen as a downside it means that a lot of the furniture is not original so there are no ropes and posts in the house and you can touch everything. It also adds to the magic of how they recreate the spaces, repurposing some and restoring others.
The house was once home to Reginald Cory, a plant hunter who travelled the world collecting seeds and plants. This is why the gardens are so vibrant and beautiful. The method of gardening at Dyffryn intrigues me. There are no lists of the plants which were historically planted at Dyffryn but there are various paintings which they use for reference. Each year the gardeners take it in turn to guess which flower or plant they think is in the picture, getting closer every year. I think this is fascinating and my piece will certainly be inspired by this concept.
The weather wasn’t great as it was persistently raining but we still explored the gardens, just a bit faster than normal. The gardens are split up into different sections with something different around each corner. I was there with Emily from the choir, a volunteer at the house and we found a section that even she hadn’t visited before or even knew existed!
After this we explored Penarth which enabled me to get my bearings and had some absolutely delicious pancakes! Each visit I spend some time with a different member of the choir as this allows me to get to know each member.
Later, in the rehearsal, I tried out several of my ideas based on my inspiration from Dyffryn. I explored using plant names as text, in English, Latin and Welsh. I had selected names which I thought sounded interesting as well as selecting plants that related to the area. Whilst researching I had discovered that each county in Wales had its own flower and the choir’s home county of Glamorgan had Yellow Whitlow Grass (Draba auzoides in Latin and Llysiau`r-bystwn melyn in Welsh).
The next idea I tried was slightly different. When I first visited the choir they informed me that very few of them were actually Welsh! This along with learning that Penarth is the best place to live in Wales had me intrigued. I just had to know what had brought everyone to Penarth, so I asked everyone to think of three reasons either why they liked Penarth or why they moved here or a mixture of both. In groups they then had some time to come up with an inventive way of sharing their thoughts. Each group came up with something different and I was very impressed by them all!
Then at the pub we discussed what text could be used, perhaps a poem about flowers. This is something I am looking into. This session was great and has given me a lot of ideas, I’m looking forward to my next meeting with them.