The Seven Arches

Over four weeks in July 2013 I collaborated with composer Richard Bullen on The Seven Arches; a site-specific choral work made for the Dartington International Summer School, which responded to architectural features in the Hall’s gardens.

During this time I also worked with composer Simon Eastwood on a piece for children’s choir titled the Song of the Spanish Trees, and with fellow poet Lydia White and composer Phillip Cashian on Tiltyard Fragments. These pieces were made as part of a wider collaboration, ‘Voices In The Garden’, a Royal Academy of Music and Dartington International Summer School project.

“Up against/ The wall/ Mother/ Holds her/ Hands straight up/ She rolled” (from The Seven Arches)

I’ve written about these other pieces towards the end of this post but I wanted to start with The Seven Arches as it is one of the pieces that has had the largest life beyond the initial project. The piece was published by Stainer & Bell in 2014 in their new ChoralNow range, performed by the Finchley Chamber Choir and documented on YouTube.

Just as the columns of a single arch, when connected by a series of spandrels and other arches, form an extended structure, the text of ‘The Seven Arches’ has a vertical as well as a horizontal orientation. The eight short poems, each corresponding to a column, stand alone as discrete units. However, the third line of each – when combined with certain additional words – can also be read to form one extended line. This line, which is heard in its entirety from bars 91–103 and 104–116, weaves its path through the vocal ranges of the choir. Each poem offers a condensed and non-chronological history of Dartington and its gardens.

This was the first time I’d worked with Richard, and I would recommend checking out his other work too, especially this piece, Steradian, for eight trombones. That’s right, there’s eight trombones in it.  Information about the other pieces coming soon.

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