Composers Network presents With Memories – a review by Tim Marriott

Composers Network, an organisation showcasing the work of contemporary music makers, perform an eclectic programme of modern classical pieces performed by Modulus String Quartet, international harpist Alex Rider, New Network Singers, whilst artists Fenya Sharky and Cliff Crawford create and facilitate impressions of the evening with a dementia affected artist. An extraordinarily emotive and cathartic experience of musical, creative and artistic excellence.

With Memories
With Memories Concert by Cliff Crawford

A magical treat played out on Saturday November 9, as, on a wet, windy night, Composers Network, a group sharing new musical work, filled the Birley Centre in Eastbourne for a dementia themed concert in aid of a local charity, Memory Lane. ‘With Memories’ was an emotional, cathartic experience, with a wide range of styles and delivery in a selection of music featuring two harpists, a 16 strong choir and a string quartet.

A two-part programme told stories through music with text and imagery projected onto the screen, sometimes prosaic, sometimes symbolic but always poignant and moving. Composers featured included the trio who set up Composer’s Network, Clive Whitburn, Melody Woodham and Tim Laverick, who are to be congratulated not just on their excellence in translating personal emotion into profoundly affecting music but also facilitating a showcase for living composer talent with additional pieces by others. These included Sam Carand with an evocative piece entitled ‘Nightjar’ and Paul Lewis with heartfelt pieces wonderfully played by internationally renowned harpist Alex Rider. Sharon Elizabeth, who works closely with Memory Lane, gave a personal and moving rendition of her own harp and voice piece, ‘Skylark Lullabye’. A Sussex-based choir, New Network Singers, and the wonderfully versatile Modulus Quartet from London added to the undeniable quality of the evening.

The use of projection gave the concert an extra dimension.  Clive Whitburn’s ‘Messages from the Sea’ was illustrated by images of the oceans and repetition of text as four choral vignettes relayed letters found cast away in bottles from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, from a sinking ship and a melancholic suicide note to a celebration of a visit to Ireland, all encapsulated in rousing melody. A photographic record by Lucy Williams (lucywilliamsphotography.co.uk) of her own father’s progression through dementia set to Melody Woodham’s music for string quartet and harp was supremely affecting, unadorned honest photographs that were never gratuitous but captured the generosity of spirit in her father and the family’s love for him. As George Orwell said, ‘happiness can only be found in acceptance’, and these two compositions, ‘Acceptance’ and ‘In Time’, born from contemplating acceptance of dementia for loved ones and carers, were always respectful and emotive but also uplifting and even humorous in composition and delivery as they celebrated the moment rather than dwelling on the past or fear of the future.  Woodham’s last piece was immediately followed by Tim Laverack’s ‘Remember’, which wrapped up and encapsulated the mood of the evening with a simple plea to ‘remember me as I was, not as I am now’.

The wider arts were also represented, social artist Fenya Sharkey was on stage throughout supporting an artist who lives with dementia painting a beautiful watercolour of the harp. Cliff Crawford also created inspirational iPad images throughout the evening.

Dementia robs us of dignity and independence. The charity Memory Lane provides a safe and stimulating environment for activities that not only offer fellowship but also stimulate creative activity for those with dementia and their carers. Anyone who wishes to donate to support this excellent work can do so at:

www.justgiving.com/fundraising/withmemories

With Memories Concert by Dominic Rae