Commissioned by Durham Choral Society and to be premiered in the world heritage site of Durham Cathedral (Saturday 10th May 2014), Will Lang’s ‘Canny at Neet, Bonny at Morn‘ celebrates the culture and heritage of County Durham and the North-East through its folk songs. The piece is the culmination of a years work, with the performers including 150 piece choir, 50 piece orchestra and vocal soloists from the Royal Academy of Music. A true cross-over from classical to folk, Will has brought in Concertina virtuoso Alistair Anderson and The Unthanks’ Niopha Keegan for guest appearances in the piece a long with a group of North East-based clog dancers who will be dancing down the aisles.
Taking traditional and modern-penned material from the North East’s rich folk traditions, Lang has built ‘Canny at Neet, Bonny at Morn’ around four movements – ‘The Sea’, ‘The Mines’, ‘The Land’ and ‘Home’.
‘The Sea’ movement features the traditional Northumbrian folk song ‘Water of Tyne’ and the late, great Graeme Miles’ ‘Sea Coal’; a rousing call from the Sea Coal sellers of Hartlepool. Originally written as a poem by Miles at the tender age of 14, ‘Sea Coal’ became one of his most highly acclaimed works.
The songs of ‘The Mines’ focuses around the Newcastle mining communities with ‘Byker Hill’, with the first collected version of this traditional Geordie song in ‘Rhymes of Northern Bards’ in 1812. The second song in this movement is ‘Farewell to the Monty’ written by Johnny Handle, a stalwart of the North East folk scene, a performer with over 50 years experience and a founder member of the High level Ranters. Farewell to the Monty speaks about the closing of Montague pit in west Newcastle. At the time ‘The Monty’ was one of the biggest takes in the North east and when the coal board shut the pit down when there was still coal underground. To this day, the closure remains a mystery to the miners that worked it.
‘The Land’ features some well-known names from the North east region. Alistair Anderson – Concertina virtuoso, co-founder of Folkworks and Newcastle University’s Folk and Traditional music degree will be joined by Niopha Keegan of Mercury Music Award nominees, The Unthanks to perform ‘Falco’ – a Northumbrian rant written by Blowzabella’s Paul James. Alistair, Niopha, Orchestra and Choir will be joined by the clog dancing of Michelle Broderick and Jo Lindsay-Dunn. Jo and Michelle both learned to dance through the Fosbrook Folk Education Trust and are now based in Newcastle. The last piece in ‘The Land’ is a homage to the Northumbrian Minstrelsy with a patchwork of songs – ‘Dol Li A’, ‘Bonny at Morn’ (from which the whole work is named) and ‘A you A’.
The final movement is named after the place that means most to all of us, ‘Home’. Finishing with another Graeme Miles song, ‘Where Ravens feed’, ‘Canny at Neet, Bonny at Morn’ concludes with strong imagery of the North East’s landscape that is as vast and hard as it is beautiful and homely.
“It feels really special to be able to show how strong our traditions are in a world heritage site that sits on our doorstep. This is an amazing opportunity to be able to celebrate our music, that once would have been seen as everyday and common, with such talented performers; in a place that holds such importance.”
In the last couple of years Will has collaborated with several choirs to produce folk-influenced choral music and notably has been made a musical associate of The National Youth Choir of Great Britain and featuring on BBC Radio 3’s the choir programme. As well as keeping a busy schedule as a composer, Will is Artistic Director of Hothouse Festival in Somerset and runs Youth Music Development at The National Centre for the Folk Arts, Halsway Manor.
The concert will be recorded and we look forward to sharing that with you later in the year.
Durham Cathedral – Saturday 10th May, 2014. 7:30pm