Channel firing at the National Portrait Gallery


On Friday 24 April Peter Sheppard Skaerved presented Channel Firing at the National Portrait Gallery as one of their Late Shift events. This Channel Firing concert was Peter’s beautifully constructed personal response to 1914-2014 following his Dover Museums and Arts Group (DMAG), Code name: Joined Up commission with Dover Museum.

Dover was  central to the stories of comings and goings woven into the concert which started with Nigel Clarke’s exquisite Epitaph for Edith Cavell, whose body was brought back through Dover, and a quote from what is written on her monument outside the Gallery: ‘Patriotism is not enough-I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone. ‘

This quote from Rupert Brooke in October 2014 prefaced Elgar’s Sospiro, played with Elgar’s bow!

We marched to Dover, highly excited… Old ladies waved handkerchiefs, young ladies gave us apples, and old men and children cheered, and we cheered back, and I felt very elderly and sombre, and full of thought of how human life was a flash between darknesses.

Room 20 was packed and included members from the DMAG team, artist Colin Priest who is in residence with Deal Town and 8 students from Astor College for the Arts in Dover and their teachers. It was an opportunity for the students to enjoy a cross-curricular approach to a creative interpretation of WW1 in words and music in a fabulous setting: the students and teachers came from fine art, history and music. DAD was very pleased to secure support from Southeastern Rail for their fares up to London.

“A fabulous end to the week! Wonderful trip to The National Portrait Gallery to see/hear  Peter Sheppard Skaerved perform ‘Channel Firing’.  The students loved it(Petra Matthews Crow, Astor College, Fine Art Teacher)

It was lovely to have been asked to go with you all. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. I have seen the history students this morning and they were telling me how much they have enjoyed the whole experience. (Margaret Ridley, Astor College, History Teacher)

Roderick Chadwick was on Piano with Peter on Violin. The programme included works by Gustav Holst, Nigel Clarke, Edward Elgar, and a setting of words from Malene Skaerved’s poem Keep Going by Sadie Harrison, powerfully sung by Eve Daniell for this premiere performance. Keep Going was originally written for a salon presented in Dover at the project space in Astley Avenue.

The concert ended with the words of Charlotte Despard in 1917: ‘I should like the words ‘alien’ and ‘foreigner’ to be banished from the language.’

Photos by Clare Smith