I was very excited and proud to be involved in a concert twelve months ago, with local volunteers, in celebration of a very beautiful landscape and its design.

Inside the Conservatory, after the performance Photo: Brian Parkhurst

I was commissioned by Peter Clegg, the Learning & Community Engagement Officer of Wentworth Castle Gardens Heritage Trust, to produce this piece, Wentworth Cantata. The commission was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the CB300 festival. It had its premiere in the newly restored Victorian Conservatory at Wentworth Castle Gardens on the 16th October 2017, as part of the Voices of the Landscape project in collaboration with the Barnsley Writers and Penistone Poets.

The concert itself featured a storyboard of wonderful poetry and narrations, punctuated by extracts of my score for bass guitar and bass voice.

Mapping the score and the six-string bass guitar Photo: John Anstie

My ideas for Wentworth Cantata began as visual sketches rather than musical notation. An interest in the Capability Brown inspired modelling of the landscape and the architecture of the building itself led me to an alternative way of displaying material for the performers.

The score consists of lines and shapes traced directly from large scale maps of the area surrounding Wentworth Castle. The performer is free to create their own journey through the hypothetical landscape using the 14 ‘micro’ pieces which can be manipulated in various ways and played in any order.

Just as the architecture of the building is made up of multiple wings which were built at different times over recent centuries, several of the sections are taken from musical works of the past which correspond to the dates of the buildings. The voice part consists of both spoken and sung material in ballad form which gives a narrative consistency to the work. I commissioned the text from John Anstie, who was also the vocalist for this project. The ballad, originally titled “Underneath The Stairs”, which runs through the whole performance is HERE.

You can see the individual fragments from the various compositions labelled adjacent to each module on the score, as well as an example of how the landscape is abstractly translated onto the page.

Wentworth Cantata Composn
Photo: Joseph Shaw

Future extensions of Voices of the Landscape will hopefully include more performances at Wentworth Castle itself (perhaps in the gardens… weather permitting!) a published book containing poems from the project along with my score and finally, a project involving the software ‘Google Maps’ to pin audio to areas of landscape for the public to explore digitally.

This project was hugely rewarding and being able to stand beside my work, included in the exhibition after the concert, rounded off the achievement.

Here is Joe Shaw’s edit, a brief extract, from the full recording of the Wentworth Cantata: –

Joe Shaw Bio Pic
Photo: Emily Needle

(This article was originally published in Joe’s own blog on December 14, 2016

© 2016, Joseph Alen Shaw
(All rights reserved)

Joseph Shaw – composer, bass guitarist and arranger:

Joseph Shaw is a composer, performer and arranger based in Sheffield. He has had music performed and/or recorded in the UK and across Europe by ensembles including the Aber:ri Duo, Absolution Saxophone Quartet, Angeli Che Cantano, BBC Singers, Deventer Wind Quintet, Fox Valley Voices, Inyerface Arts, Jabeliah Saxophone Quartet, Manchester Camerata, Psappha, Meraki Duo, RNCM Brand New Orchestra, RNCM Contemporary Music Society, the RNCM New Music Ensemble, Sheffield Music Academy Chamber Orchestra.

As a bass guitarist, he has been active on the music scene in Sheffield for over a decade and continues to perform with several bands as well as freelancing regularly for school productions and recording sessions.

Joseph holds a Bachelor with Honours degree from the Royal Northern College of Music, where he studied under the tutelage of Dr Larry Goves.

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