Categories
Guernsey Guernsey Literature Painters, Poetry

Keeping Guernsey Legends vibrantly alive

Guernsey Legends by Jane Mosse & Frances Lemmon, Blue Ormer Publishing

jane-mosse-and-frances-lemmon
Jane Mosse and Frances Lemmon

Screen Shot 2018-03-09 at 14.53.39The stories in the gorgeously-produced Guernsey Legends by Jane Mosse and Frances Lemmon are not remote reconstructions from some antique past. One story, about an enormous spectre of a nanny goat, played a real part in my own island childhood. Le Coin de la Biche was a stone’s throw away from my family home on La Rue des Grons. My grandfather always accelerated past this corner at night. Although we used to laugh nervously about La Biche as we sped past, by night a fiery-eyed giant nanny goat leaping out of the hedges certainly seemed possible.

The book’s introduction also mentions Jane Mosse and Frances Lemmon’s debt to the peerless Marie De Garis, the author of Folklore of Guernsey (1975).  But the text of Guernsey Legends, contains stories collected by Sir Edgar McCullough and Edith Carey, which were first published in 1903. These stories are then responded to in poetry, by Jane Mosse, and visually, by Frances Lemmon.

It is a huge relief to see we are in such safe hands. Writer Jane Mosse is well known on Guernsey not just as a fine poet, but for championing Guernsey literature, and the memory of G.B. Edwards and The Book of Ebenezer Le Page, the best book written about the island. In this collection Jane Mosse’s poems are typically playful, engaging and full of a folkloric darkness. The effect is often that we are reading rediscovered poems, and Jane Mosse’s conscious use of  anachronisms is particularly effective and sympathetic in rooting themselves into the soil of the original stories.

The Cuckoo is one of these examples, where the poem is almost like reading an old Guernsey spell.

The Cuckoo

When you hear the cuckoo call
Sew you then your wedding shawl.

Count the months before you wed
Head thee to thy marriage bed.

Wedding ring already worn?
Count the years to your first-born.

When you’re agèd list her cry,
Count the years before you die.

This poem about finding a witch caught up in thorns works its magic in the same way.

The Witch in the Hedge

Thorns
tore
at the silken skirt.
Fine tatters
fluttered in the furze,
as the juice of the sloes
leached into her bodice
staining the fragile lace of her shawl.

When old Nicolette
espied the gentlewoman
ensnared by blackthorn,
bleeding midst the brambles
her gentle hands reached
to pluck
barbed spines
from grazed flesh.

Pride wounded,
raven scoop askew,
the hag
spat
out her warning.

‘Hold though thy tongue
speak to no one
lest a single word
of this tale be heard.’

Frances Lemmon is the pre-eminent painter on Guernsey, who unfailingly manages to get to the symbolic heart of the island, with striking compositions that somehow mythologise features of the island. Her style is deceptively simple, employing planes of vibrant colour, and simplified depictions of people and animals. The book is worth its price alone for having collected Lemmon’s stunning and mysterious pictures.

Guernsey Legends is divided into five sections: animals, fairies, magic, rocks and stones, and festivals, and the subject matter is incredibly rich. We learn about an invasion of murderous fairies from the west, drunken (and untrustworthy) Jerseymen who tried to steal Guernsey by hitching a rope to it to, to shape-changing witches and shape-changing rocks and all manner of other matters.

This is a beautiful book. The original stories wonderfully enhanced by Jane Mosse and Frances Lemmon who have gone about teasing out new approaches to the legends with consummate skill. In their hands Guernsey Legends are vibrantly alive, and bring authentic Guernsey folklore to a new generation of readers. This is another timely and excellent publication from Blue Ormer.

Categories
A Glass of Nothing a writer's life Actors Brighton Blonde Productions Guernsey Poetry Theatre

Nostalgia, and other news

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This time last week I was in Guernsey. I loved every moment of it. As soon as I set foot in my home parish of St Martin’s I feel surrounded by magic, and weirdly rebooted. The lanes are sedimented with decades of my memories, which provides the illusion that this is somehow my place. And I feel a love for this tablecloth of land spread over the corner of a little island that can never be erased. It is a piggy bank of my identity into which I have stuffed coins all my life. Above is the view from Icart Point, ten minutes walk from where I once lived.

The word ‘nostalgia’ derives from the Greek nostos for homecoming and algos pain. It is bittersweet, as if the past is a country you might visit. Perhaps one reason why nostalgia is such a close cousin of misty-eyed patriotism.

To my Guernsey family, I was always English. Taxi drivers sometimes ask me on the way back from the airport if it is my first time on the island, and just last week my wife said a cheery hello, to an English couple outside La Barbarie, where I stay. I heard one of them say as they moved on, ‘I do like it when people love our island’. It made me grit my teeth. But I am an exile from the island, and from my past. We all are. We don’t belong anywhere, but we want to belong. That is the algos of nostalgia, and the cause of a lot of nationalistic nonsense in the world. But if I were to belong anywhere, it would be there.

*  *  *  *

I’ve just had a poem accepted by E·ratio, due out in January, which ‘publishes poetry in the postmodern idioms with an emphasis on the intransitive’.  I am attracted to the journal’s rigour, and keep returning to it to be delighted and sometimes enraged by the poems it features. I’ve long enjoyed poetry that confronts you with difficulty,  ever since wrestling with late modernist J.H. Prynne. A long bout I owe to university friend Michael Stone-Richards who bought me a copy of Prynne’s The Oval Window back in 1986.

What was dubbed by ‘The Democratic Voice’ in poetry, (famously by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford in their introduction to the Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain since 1945), has appeared to overshadow the more esoteric reaches of late Modernism and Post-Modernism. As usual (and tiresomely) if there is a debate about this, I am in the middle. I wish more mainstream poetry had more ambition, while some postmodern poetry could stop desperately flashing its cleverness at you. Sometimes I feel like thundering at it, ‘yes I get that you’re clever, and that this poem is an artificial construct, now tell me something I don’t know’.  In a world of ironic speech marks, a dash of authenticity doesn’t go amiss.

And talking of authenticity and the middle way, tomorrow I am  going to the official launch of Charlotte Gann’s Noir. A book, a poet and a person I like a great deal.

*  *  *  *

And finally, rehearsals are now well underway for my plays We Three Kings and A Glass of Nothing, presented in a double bill at the Marlborough Theatre on Thursday 8th December and Friday 9th December. Tickets are here. Below, snap from last night’s rehearsal.

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Categories
A Guernsey Double a writer's life Guernsey Guernsey Literature Photography Richard Fleming

Home is where the hurt is

JasonWilde-Lower-ResFor someone who hates flying as much as I do, I seem to travel a lot. Countries as far apart as Mexico, Chad, and Japan have seen me emerge from the plane blinking in gratitude to the sky gods for my safe arrival, and ready to explore. But when I return to Guernsey I feel I am coming home. I turn inward to reboot and take a long hard look at myself and what I’ve been up to since my last visit.

Guernsey obsesses me. I want to back people into corners and tell them everything I know about it. Being exiled from the island hurt me into writing poetry when I was in my teens. I’ve written about it ever since, including in A Guernsey Double (2010) with Richard Fleming, and more published work since then.

Last week my wife and I took my mid-20s stepchildren and their partners there for the first time. But I soon realised what I chose to show them wasn’t just the island, it was a covert way of showing them myself. I began to wonder uncomfortably if I was actually seeing Guernsey at all, instead of something scripted by my imagination and my memory. Frankly it was all getting a bit ‘me-me-me’. It made me think how my writing about the island has been received with a suspicion – above and beyond the fact it was poetry – in some quarters. For example when A Guernsey Double was published, Richard and I were welcomed more than once onto BBC Guernsey, while Guernsey Press completely ignored its publication.  I can completely understand this however. It’s a bit like how I was tempted to blah-blah about the island, and show people around ‘my’ island. I fully understand that local people must be heartily sick of folks imposing a narrative on their home.

I couldn’t help note the irony that I was tripped into this realisation by an exhibition by London based photographer  Jason Wilde, whose exhibition Guerns, was running at the museum in Candie Gardens. Jason’s photos captured candid images of local people in their own homes. There was some piercing work in the exhibition, as you can see from the lovely spotty piece above. I loved the absence of sentimentality, nostalgia and how it didn’t over-egg its subject matter. The exhibition has an admirable clarity and truth about it.

This exhibition jabbed a sensitive spot on the island. Guernsey is a small place that was once dependent on tourism and its tomato industry. Guernsey Toms were familiar to shoppers in the sixties and seventies. But when the UK joined what was then called the Common Market, Guernsey Toms were undercut by cheaper Dutch tomatoes. The industry rapidly sank, and for a while this was replaced with flower growing but that withered too. The island that once glittered with greenhouses as you flew into it, is less sparkly now.*

Since that time the financial industry has been Guernsey’s mainstay. To keep it going it has imported lots of well paid folks from the UK and beyond, which is in danger of creating a two-tier society.  The gorgeous parish  I grew up in, St Martin’s, nearby houses were full of my relatives, who were ordinary local people. But the houses have now been gentrified. Now you just have to look at the cars parked in the gravelled front gardens to see how things have changed.

As Jason Monaghan, Director of Guernsey Museums said talking about the Guerns exhibition, “The contemporary photographic archive that is being built throughout this series is invaluable and is something for both current and future generations to enjoy”. I whole heartedly agree, and would add that Jason Wilde has photographed local people at what may feel like a vulnerable and uncertain time in their history.

I have recently finished a long poem about the island, imagining it as a kind of Atlantis sunk in time. It is the culmination of a long sequence of introspective poems that goes back to my teens, but this last one feels like the end of a chapter.

I am already planning my next visit. But next time I am going to go different places, and will speak to different people. There are new stories I’d like to hear told, and Jason Wilde’s exhibition has forcibly reminded me of this.

So it’s a big well done from me to Guernsey Arts and Guernsey Museums. Brilliant stuff.

* I took the snap below last week, there are several ruins of the tomato industry still to be seen.

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Categories
a writer's life Blogging Blowing my own trumpet social media Theatre

I should introduce myself (at last)

Why on earth would you want to visit this site? This is a question that has been plaguing me lately. Personally I find ‘me me me’ blogs tiresome. Worse, I know I’ve been guilty of them too. So I thought it was about time I said what this blog was about, using that tried and trusted Internet favourite: a list snappier than a crocodile sandwich.

Five reasons to visit peter kenny : the notebook

  1. You can find out what a working writer’s life is like. Somehow I have made a living as a writer for over 25 years. When I say this I try to sound deeply impressive, and I adopt an impressive face. People think: J.K. Rowling. Then I have to tell the truth. And I can tell you that the reality is most of my income comes from working with advertising agencies as a writer and creative director. Occasionally this gets interesting, such as a recent trip to Chad. So this blog has a bit about marketing in it. If that’s your bag, then dip in.
  2. If you’d like to lead a double life too. How does a person go about balancing work with being creative? I had my first poems published in the early 80s when I was a handsome young devil of 21. Overnight I became a genius (more about that here) who worked in warehouses, did manual labour, and took depressing temporary office jobs for ten years while I struggled with my muse. Now I balance writing poetry, plays, libretti, etc. while not living in poverty. That’s genius!
  3. If you want to be surprised. It seems to me most successful blogs focus relentlessly on one subject. This makes perfect sense. If you want to get your twice weekly fix on nose flutes you visit the nose flute blog. Trouble is I’m not a ‘one subject’ kind of person, though I often wish I was. So if you visit here, you may find yourself reading about eclectic things that surprise you.
  4. Get an insider’s view of staging a play. I have been finishing off an exhausting writing assignment for a humanitarian organisation. My next major project is the staging of my play ‘A Glass of Nothing’ at the Brighton Festival Fringe this May. I’ll tell you a secret: I’ve not finished writing the first full draft of it yet.
  5. And because I make mistakes and take risks. Sometimes I get it hopelessly wrong, overextend myself, fail to correctly prioritise and generally make a mess. I want to be open about this too. So please come along to read about successes (and I’m hoping there will be a few) and what can be learned from falling flat on your face.

I used to write journals last thing at night. Trouble is those little books often became a repository of miserablist whining. Reading through them it seemed that my life was one dismal episode after another, which was far from true. As soon as I began blogging back in 2003, my perspective changed. The idea that others might be reading what I wrote allowed me to reframe not only the ‘how’ of what I wrote, but how I saw my life. So blogging has proved a healthy experience too. One which allows me to look at my own life in a more positive way.

I hope you find something to enjoy on this site in the coming months. See you soon I hope.

Below here is a recent shot of me in Moulin Huet Guernsey, where I first learned to swim as a child. I live in Brighton UK now.

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Categories
Charity Guernsey Marketing Poetry Travel

Ready for Chad and missing writing poetry

Chad

Final stage of prep seems now to be done. Passport renewed, visa obtained, jabs jabbed (although inconveniently I had a fever when I went for my yellow fever jab so I had to return a few days later) anti-malarial Malerone tablets bought, while my wife has armed me with lots of practical things like wet wipes, hand sanitisers and so on. Final thing to buy is a mosquito net, and I need to locate and deploy my inner hairy-chested man of action.

My inner h-c man of action especially required after a day of compulsory security training. Essentially the training gave you an idea of what to do in every conceivable worst case scenario, delivered by a man who has spent much of his life working in the most hostile environments, bless his white-rimmed eyes. Lots of advice from what to do if you are being robbed (simply give them everything) right up to the best position to take on the floor if someone throws a live grenade into the room. Rather melodramatically a dummy grenade was thrown into our room, prompting us to flatten ourselves on the floor, heads pointed away from the blast. Hardly soothing stuff.

Nevertheless, the script I wrote which we are filming seems to have been approved by everyone, and next week we see how reality matches our expectation. I am hoping we can edge beyond the normal tropes of DRTV and see if we can get something exceptional. Fundraising DRTV advertisements have some rigid but proven conventions so it is definitely about striking a balance between abiding by conventions and managing to surprise people.

Poetry

I’ve not had much chance to engage with poetry over the last few weeks, due being very busy in my Peter Kenny The Writer Ltd mode. This is making me itch to write poems again.

I particularly enjoyed being on the Telltale Stand for the Poetry Book Fair. More than anything I value the chance to get a snapshot of what is going on in poetry in the UK, and also to drift about chatting to some old friends and putting some names to faces. I bought books too. One simply because I liked its name: Infragreen by Kate Bingham, and another because it was connected with Guernsey: Timothy Adès translation of How to be a Grandfather, by Victor Hugo. I spoke with Timothy who had just returned from the Guernsey Literary Festival, and had bumped into Edward Chaney there. I also bought a Carcanet New Poetries IV anthology. I love these Carcanet anthologies. They invite a kind of personal statement of its poets, which is a potential minefield. Some are illuminating while others make me hoot with laughter at their portentous vacuity. All adds to the fun.

Me, Robin Houghton, Siegfried Baber, Sarah Barnsley
Me, Robin Houghton, Siegfried Baber, Sarah Barnsley

My favourite moment on the Telltale stand was when a woman looked at the four free poem postcards we were giving away. Silently she picked up one after another, read the first line or two through her magnifying glass, and replaced the card on its pile with a visible shudder. She came to Sarah Barnsley’s card last, and lo! She regally retained it before moving on. Praise indeed.

In fact Sarah Barnsley’s new pamphlet is just out from TelltaleThe Fire Station contains some truly exceptional poems.When I get back from Chad I will write more about them.

cover-image-FireStation

Categories
Autobiographical Defenders of Guernsey Guernsey Prose

‘Defenders of Guernsey’ now on kindle

I have revised ‘Defenders of Guernsey’. This second edition, for an 8-to-adult age is now available on Kindle.

As a child my grandparents lived in a road in Guernsey called La rue des Grons. When I lived there as a child, and then stayed with my grandparents on every school holiday the few streetlights went off at 10.30. It was very dark and definitely spooky. Just down the road was a spot that my grandfather, David Marquis, used to zoom past at night. This place was known as Le coin de La Biche (the goat’s corner) and was rumoured to be haunted by the apparition of an enormous nanny goat.

Still the most authoritative book on Guernsey folklore, Folklore of Guernsey by Marie DeGaris devotes a few paragraphs to the giant red-eyed beast and its fearsome sightings, one of which scared a 16 year old girl to death.  I was always happy about La Biche, as it’s not everyone lucky enough to have a star of folklore living a hundred yards or so down the road.

I’ve been working on a children’s character called Skelton Yawngrave for some time. I am now on the sixth draft of a novel which features him. However, when I was invited to the first Guernsey literary festival in 2011 to talk to some children, I thought I would write a longish (13,000 word) short story called Defenders of Guernsey featuring Skelton and La Biche which was published then as a limited edition.

My friend Amanda Milne is developing a board game set on the island, and having read this story borrowed the idea of a terrifying goat. Amanda’s game is now in its a prototype form and being tested by games players. You can read more about the SchilMil game in development here.

Defenders of Guernsey Kindle
Defenders of Guernsey now on kindle. My mother Margaret Hamlin painted La Biche for the cover.
Categories
A Guernsey Double Guernsey Poetry Richard Fleming

How not to annoy a poet

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Peter Kenny and Richard Fleming

In the granite cliffs of the south coast of Guernsey is a particularly beautiful spot called Icârt Point. I proposed to Lorraine my wife there two years ago, and I have known and loved the place all my life.  I have written poems about it, with two even having been set to music. When it comes my time to join the majority I quite fancy having my ashes smuggled to Icârt and tossed to the wind.

The friendly owner of the cafe at Icârt once told me he had mercury poisoning. “Success,” he said  another time, while sliding a ham sandwich at me across the counter, “is knitting your own Ferrari”. A koan I have puzzled over. Meanwhile the cafe garden had grown increasingly mazy and is full of roses and towering alien-looking echiums. Add into the scene the little tables and trays of cups and saucers, sandwiches and cakes, then it hard not to start looking about for a sleeping dormouse or a tardy white rabbit.

Where better then to meet my old friend Richard Fleming with whom I collaborated on a book called A Guernsey Double, which collected some of our poems about the island. I long stalked Richard through magazines and local island publications as he was clearly the best writer of poetry on the island (exemplified only a couple of months ago by his featuring heavily both on the island and open sections of the recent international Guernsey poetry competition).  While I’m all about the South coast of Guernsey, Richard has often written about the West. Here is one of his poems I love from A Guernsey Double about the West of the island. (Also see Strange Journey.)

Grand Rocques

When the Fat Lady sings her song
of death, her red dress billows out.
Her stage is the horizon there
beyond the sea where white birds shout
like stage-hands in the cooling air
or, lazy, simply bob along.

Her audience, this perfect night:
beach strollers, men with barbecues,
joggers, dog-walkers, laughing girls,
wet-suited boys in bright canoes,
stare as her aria unfurls
its ruby notes in dying light.

Collectively we hold our breath
to watch the Lady, red as paint
sink down, her wondrous final scene
completed in a breathless faint.
The colour now, the tangerine
of saffron robes, perhaps of death.

Richard also has a highly enjoyable blog called Bard at Bay.  Now I am getting back into the poetry world I realise that for better or worse that poets are my tribe. Back in 1984 Matt Groening (originator of The Simpsons) did  a cartoon of “Your Guide to the Modern Creative Artistic Types”. His entry for poet suggests that the way to annoy them is to “Be Another Poet”.  Not true of course, although this thought has come to me when I have met poets burdened by being a genius, the kind of burden that I as a mere poetic foot soldier could never understand. Fortunately such people are few and far between.

The poets who are my friends and who do not annoy me just by being another poet, such as Richard, are generous hearted people who happen to love reading and writing poetry. And as the eccentric cafe owner might say, long may Richard continue to knit his poetic Ferraris.

Guide-to-Modern-Artists1

Categories
Guernsey

Seventy years of Liberation

It’s Liberation Day in Guernsey, 70 years since those aboard HMS Bulldog accepted the surrender of the Nazi occupiers, and the island’s liberators we welcomed into St Peter Port by a crowd which included my half-starved grandfather. The legacy of bunkers and fortifications built into the island is still plain to see.

When I went to school I thought nothing of the fact that there was a German bunker in the playground till I moved to London. Or that the breathtaking walks along the island’s south coast, were punctuated by enormous gun emplacements, part of Hitler’s ‘ring of steel’.

A couple of years ago I was surprised to hear the Bishop of Southampton reading one of my poems Root and Branch in his Liberation Day sermon.  Here is another poem of mine, written almost thirty years ago, about the island. I was in my twenties when I wrote it, but it is one I can still read without cringing — although the idea that the bunkers have blended in so much that they have lost their history is wrongheaded. But it is infused with a longing for home that still grips me. Luckily I return in a couple of weeks for a short visit.

The remembering cliffs

The cliffs are full of faces, great granite heads
petrified just as they lifted from sleep.
Stone heads of Martello towers, blank looks
from the concrete helmets of German gun emplacements
now so assimilated with the granite and the gorse
that they have lost their particular history.

These cliffs are full of faces, a cliff path
inevitably winds back into past summers
bringing to mind voices in the wind, my family
talking as they walked the remembering cliffs.
It is a haunted coastline and every time a corner’s turned
I meet my recollection of those who trod here.

I meet myself as a child who thought God had been born
floating face down in these waters,
His face big as a cliff’s face, His body a small island.
It was an untaught myth; my secret belief
and life must have teemed about Him like the wrasse
and the gulls and the mackerel crowding close to these cliffs.

The cliffs are full of faces that stare out to find Him
and I stare too — through the slits and cracks
of my fortified disbelief, of my adulthood,
into His comforting presence — into the sea.
Now the sea seems part of a once-swollen certainty
that has yearly drawn away like a lowering tide.

Below: there is a particular cliff head on the south coast just east of Icart Point that always makes me think of a head rising up from sleep. Hence the image in the poem.

cliff head 27 March

Categories
A Guernsey Double Chiara Beebe Music

Hear ‘A Return to Sarnia’ by Chiara Beebe

Very happy to hear from Chiara Beebe who sent me a live recording made in Guernsey last August of the Guernsey Sinfonietta’s premiere of her piece ‘Return to Sarnia’. The words of which were based on a poem I wrote about the island in my early twenties – more or less the same age Chiara was when she wrote this.

This recording was made at the premiere, which was conducted by Sebastian Grand and sung by Casey-Joe Rumens. Sarnia is one of the old names for Guernsey, and Chiara’s piece culminates in a yearning phrase from Sarnia Cherie, which is Guernsey’s unofficial island anthem.

What do you think?

And PS: here’s the original poem, or how it looked when it was being driven around the island in a bus a few years ago. It also appeared in the book written with my pal Richard Fleming called A Guernsey Double.

A return

Peter Kenny & Chiara Beebe
With Chiara in Guernsey last August.

 

Categories
A Guernsey Double Guernsey Music

Chiara Beebe, and ‘A Return to Sarnia’

Chiara Beebe
Chiara Beebe

August 6th sees the premiere of a new piece by Chiara Beebe. She is a 22 year old composer, cellist and singer born on Guernsey, whose piece A Return to Sarnia, based on a poem by Peter Kenny, will be performed as part of Terra Nova, an evening of modern and new music, by The Guernsey Sinfonietta. 

PK: So how did you get started as a composer?

CB: Well, I only really began to consider myself a composer when I went to University – I found the way it was taught at school quite restrictive. At the University of Manchester it was taught in a completely different way that allowed me to express myself exactly as I wanted to with fewer boundaries. I was very lucky to have studied composition there with Camden Reeves who I cannot thank enough for his incredible energy and passion! I mainly enjoy writing for singers and strings (would you guess I’m a cellist and singer) because I think there is something very special about the use of words in music, but I do hope to keep writing a variety of pieces.

PK: So what have you been working on lately? I understand you like music to be performed with a dash of theatre.

CB: Yes I do. My recent compositions have included a setting of selections from Dante’s Divine Comedy, which was written for eight men and solo soprano. I often use space in my pieces and in this instance I placed the singers around the hall in a circle with the soprano solo on the balcony – reflecting the journey from hell to heaven and the circles of his inferno. This was the piece for which I was awarded the Proctor-Gregg Prize and I really enjoyed creating it.

I also used theatricality in a piece for baritone solo, cello, trumpet and snare drum which used an extended metaphor of a bird as a prisoner of war. I feel that a lot can be added to music by using space as a parameter – it’s something that also makes the live performance unique and can captivate an audience.

PK: I wish I’d seen them. Do you have a particular approach to composition?

CB: I take influence from pretty much any experiences I’ve had. I play in a lot of orchestras and choirs and generally the repertoire I am playing at the time influences what I am writing. I like parts of all of the periods of musical history and think there is a lot to be learned from all of them, up to the present day – I try and listen to as many concerts of new music as I can. The music I write tends to be quite programmatic as I work best with a poem or story in mind, the tonality or nature of the music tends to come directly from the words or story and varies from piece to piece. I don’t have any special systems or method in my approach, but I normally do a lot of thinking and brainstorming, then do lots of sketches until what I want is clear in my mind. Then I’ll write it down and work from there. Compositions can always evolve and I always make sure I get second opinions and talk through it with friends, whether musical or not, to get a new perspective or clarify my ideas.

PK: So tell me more about your new piece A Return to Sarnia.

CB: Well, as you know I have used your poem A Return as the basis for this piece. I chose it because for me it evoked the feelings of coming home and feeling grounded and safe. It’s very difficult to put into words (why I don’t write the lyrics myself!) but this poem reminds me of how I feel whenever I come home to Guernsey from wherever I am. It’s such a wonderful place and I can’t help but grin every time I see it emerge through the airplane window with my Guernsey Press in hand. As you can tell I’m quite passionate about this beautiful little island I call home! With this in mind, the piece is about that journey of coming home. I have used a string orchestra, solo baritone and three trumpets – who are hidden from the view of the audience. The strings act as accompaniment to the voice, often with rising and falling dynamics reflective of the sea or the wind whereas the trumpets play in a different key at various points in the piece. Their melody is split up and in the wrong order and with each repetition it reorders itself to finally state a melody us Guerns are all familiar with…

PK: I can’t wait to hear it at the premiere. I’ve seen the score, and as far as I can tell it’s a stunning piece. And I’m really flattered that you used some of my words of course.

CB: No problem, I’m thrilled you allowed me the permission to do it. As soon as I lay my hands on A Guernsey Double I knew there would be something in it for me to use – what a fantastic collection of poetry. I have tried writing my own text before with little success so I am in complete admiration for what you do – I’ll stick to the music!

PK: So what’s next for you? I know you’ve been living in Italy for several months…

CB: I love performing and composing music but I am currently pursuing a career in the music business. Having graduated from Manchester, I have now moved to Milan where I am studying for a Masters in International Business Management. I’m absolutely loving it out there, and my Italian is getting better by the day! I’ve also kept a little blog mainly for friends and family called Chiara Alla Milanese (which also translates as ‘Chiara in breadcrumbs’ but I thought that was amusing). It is a really fun way of keeping track of what life is like in a new country. Aside from the course itself, I keep myself busy with orchestras and choirs in Milan as well as playing and receiving tutoring at the Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi and composing of course! I also currently work for Constella Ballet and Orchestra based in London, as well as for a composer of TV and film based locally and Music Connected, a social connectivity site for musicians which is in development and will be doing a six month placement with a production music company in Milan from January before I will move to London. As you can see I like to keep busy – I love all aspects of music and like to keep myself immersed in all of it!

PK: Thanks Chiara… See you at the premiere!