School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: October 2010
The Angel in the Forest

By Julian Marshall

Dear Movement Medicine friends,

I am a musician who has worked with Susannah and Ya’Acov over many years, so you may know me! In the last few years my musical journey has come to focus on setting the poetry of Gertrud Kolmar to music. Gertrud Kolmar was a Jewish poet who died in the holocaust and whose poetry bears witness in away which moves me very deeply.

Last year “Out of the Darkness” came out, and now “Angel in the Forest” is about to premiere. I invite you to come!

The Angel in the Forest, is to me, before a piece of music, an act of service. What is it serving? the remarkable poetic gifts of Gertrud Kolmar. But these gifts speak of something extraordinary - an almost unbearable sensitivity to the spirit of LIFE in the most dire of circumstances.... her ability to bear witness, as a German Jewish woman in 1937 Berlin, to so much in her inner and outer world and to articulate her experience so exquisitely.

My intention is that the experience of the music meeting these words create an experience of inspiration for all of us.... It is through the broken heart, it seems, where the real treasures lie in wait....

I am very pleased to announce and invite you to the premiere of The Angel in the Forest - the follow piece to last years Out of the Darkness. The concert is on Friday 19th November in St Mary's Church, High Street, Totnes, UK.

7.30 start. Tickets can be bought in person from Harberton Arts Workshop, 27 Hight St, Totnes or reserved though our administrator Katie Whitehouse ( Ticket prices are £15 and £10 (concessions).

Performers: James Gilchrist (tenor) and Lucy Railton (cello).

Programme will include: Bach Suite for solo cello (No. 3) and The Angel in the Forest.

The Angel in the Forest is the second work in the ‘Welten’ series - which is a long-term composition project that I embarked upon in November 2007 involving the setting all seventeen poems in Gertrud Kolmar’s remarkable ‘Welten’ cycle. Kolmar is a most highly regarded, yet still little known, German Jewish poet who perished in Auschwitz in 1943. I'm calling this whole thing The Welten Project.

Out of the Darkness  was premiered in Winchester Cathedral in March 2009 and has, to date, been performed eight times – including a memorable performance in Weimar, Germany, last March, in the stunning wooden church where Goethe was married.

Contrasting with the soprano solo and choral forces used in Out of the Darkness, the idea to set The Angel in the Forest for just tenor voice and cello + a ton of pre-recorded music appealed to me right from the start. There is something magical for me in the idea of ‘the two morphing into the many’ and it all being played by the same two players! Indeed, everything you will hear is performed by James and Lucy - voice and ‘cello – including Lucy’s ‘cello 'percussion' in two of the six movements.... plus all in 8 speaker surround sound!

Although there is a very clear feminine voice running through much of the ‘Welten’ cycle, there are certainly a few of the poems that lend themselves very well to being sung by a man. Ever since I heard James Gilchrist singing Die Schone Mullerin at Dartington some three years ago,  it has been a dream of mine to write a piece for him. The Angel in the Forest is, to me, one of the most stunning poems in a stunning cycle. Writing the piece for James’ most exquisite voice is simply a dream come true… Indeed, writing this piece for two such remarkable performers is an incredible honour – about as good as it gets for me as a composer. I am deeply indebted to them both for their unstinting support, enthusiasm and generosity throughout the creation of the whole thing.


The Welten Project

The audience that I have always imagined for ‘Welten’ is, in truth, much more of an 'art house' cinema audience than a strictly musical one. With this in mind, I am currently engaged in conversations with a variety of creative colleagues – animators, film makers and dancers – with the idea of all or some the pieces in the project becoming multi-media pieces.

I have always felt that ‘Welten’ to be a kind of ‘doorway’ through which people feel invited to step through; an opportunity to somehow light a candle in the darkness – through and amongst the mists of denial which so clearly pervades our humanity. I am thrilled at the prospect of sharing this with other colleagues representing other art forms and, all being well, offering this work both as a series of performances and related educational activity.

I do hope you will come and join us on November 19th.

Julian Marshall

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Movement Medicine. Roland Wilkinson, Nappers Crossing, Staverton, Devon TQ9 6PD, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0)1803 762255 http://www.