A Derelict Chorale

Photo by Jon Pratty

Spring 2020 will see tales of Hastings’ America Ground brought to life by UK writer, composer and producer Chris Thorpe-Tracey as part of a new project by MSL Digital, called A Derelict Chorale. From January until Easter, Chris will be Artist-in-Residence within the America Ground and he’ll be exploring the fractious town politics of the 1800s, including some of the key characters and incidents, developing a musical experience that will be delivered both digitally and in performance. He intends to pull these stories from the bricks and mortar and breathe life into them in tunes and tales using material from the Hastings Museum collection, local archives and from the musical memory of the community.

Over the past 20 years Chris has toured and recorded more than 12 solo albums and collaborations. He has also always been interested in the roots of where music comes from in the UK. In 2015 he was made the inaugural National Trust Creative Fellow at The Workhouse, in Southwell, Nottinghamshire. At the National Trust-owned Workhouse, Chris embedded with staff and volunteers to create a new set of folk ballads to capture the voices of those who lived at one of the first Victorian-era workhouses. In 2013 Chris was also Writer in Residence at the Royal Pavilion & Museums in Brighton, finding new ways to share stories from across the museum sites.

For this new residency, Chris will collaborate with Hastings’ thriving social media history groups and our community of local musicians, to create a digital and physical performance enriched with imagery and text. He’ll build connections and search for stories. The product of the residency will be shared for all to enjoy, and importantly, to re-interpret.

To set the political and social context for his work, Chris has also researched and written a Spotify playlist which excavates other musics of the Napoleonic era, many of which echo the themes exposed in his song cycle.

A key feature of the residency, funded via an Arts Council England lottery grant, is that Chris will make the work shareable and copyright-free. The recorded product of workshops will be hosted on MSL’s RSA-funded Town Arts Map, an interactive platform accessible on the streets of Hastings and to wider online audiences.

When A Derelict Chorale is launched, we will announce an open call for four commissions for other creatives to respond to Chris’ work with a digital work of their own. This might be re-making the music your own way, or illustrating it, or taking it into VR, or something else entirely. These works in turn will be added to the Smart Heritage Map and feature as a contribution to Coastal Currents 2020.

Meanwhile you can watch and hear what Chris has to say here:

A one-hour video interview with Chris about the background to the project including the making of the music.

A 30-minute version of the above video concentrating on researching and writing the songs.

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