And great Art beaten down was the phrase suddenly rolling doomily in my head last night. I was drinking a nice pint of bitter in a pub called The World’s End in Brighton while hugely enjoying The Shakespeare Heptet playing in the corner of a pub. As usual, their musicianship was near immaculate. This despite the fact that outside in London Road a shop alarm was wailing peevishly, and that the pub was noisy. Of course people coming in for a drink are perfectly entitled to chat and enjoy themselves. But I can’t help but marvel at how some people can be so willfully oblivious to the miraculous music happening in the same room.
This is just me being an old curmudgeon, of course, the band played with enjoyment and expertise, and those who had ears loved it.
I have written about Richard Gibson’s plan to set every Shakespeare sonnet to music before here before. Although it seems at first a madcap scheme, the results are stunning. While the music is rooted in an absolute immersion in the sonnets, the results are completely contemporary.
In his quest he has been abetted by exquisite guitarist Dipak Chanda and a band featuring Aaron Power on percussion and vocals, Nick Fuller on bass guitar, and Sylvana Montoya and Rebecca Macmillan on vocals. The music is hard to categorise – but the word that always comes to mind for me is timeless. They blend so many influences that they have their own distinct sound. These are fabulous songs and if the Gods were at their desks doing their bloody jobs right, The Shakespeare Heptet should be in the throes of a major tour with a couple of renowned CDs behind them. But instead we’re here. With groundlings like me able to watch them for the price of a pint or two in The World’s End.
I’d love to see them in a setting where those perfect words and the fabulous playing can be heard. More than that I wish I could write something that makes the world wake up to the Shakespeare Heptet. But instead I’m writing this: The Shakespeare Heptet are the greatest unknown band in the UK.
This recording of Sonnet No. 20 below is from the early days of the band, when they were known as the Shakespeare Trio. Their sound is fuller now, positively ballsy when it has to be. But I still love the crystalline clarity of Richard and Dipak’s playing in this track and Richard’s excellent voice.