Salon Evening at the National Trust White Cliffs Visitor Centre

War & Peace

On Thursday 10th October 2013, the eve of the DAD War & Peace Transit Pulp & Rags concert, DAD invited fellow musicians, artists and others directly involved with the DAD War & Peace programme to a special pre-concert Salonat the National Trust Visitors’ Centre on the White Cliffs of Dover. The delicious refreshments were prepared by Edda Jones and Katerina Varda, Nicola Dunsbee and Claire Budd were on hand to welcome the guests.

The salon was an opportunity for Peter Sheppard Skaerved, Malene Sheppard Skærved, Nigel Clarke and Joanna Jones to share works not being performed at the Grand Finale Concert on the following evening  and talk about their process of reasearch and collaboration over the previous 18 months, with Mihailo Trandfilovski also joining the conversation.

(Performed works in Bold)

Joanna Jones welcomed the guests and opened proceedings giving some background to DAD’s War & Peace project and the range of activities the project has encompassed as well as the artists involved.

Clare Smith talked about the education strand of the project which included workshops at Dover College, St Mary’s C of E primary and Dover Boys Grammar. After the workshop St Mary’s formed a school orchestra and they also have a choir which performs regularly. Alison said that the workshop “motivated the children to do something inspirational and sing for fun.”

Peter Sheppard Skӕrved introduced one of the ideas which had emerged from the project, that of the travelling artists and musicians who had historically come through Dover, and spoke about his identification, as a traveller with a violin with these figures. To illustrate this, he played a work by a 17th Century example, a German-speaking composer, who arrived at Dover.

Nicola Matteis-Prelude (Published 1704, Walsh, London)

There then followed a conversation between Nigel Clarke, Malene Skӕrved, and Peter, talking about the various angles from which they approached the residency, each from a very personal background (Calcutta-born-Kent raised-Belgium resident composer, Danish Born-American educated-London resident writer, London born-incessantly travelling musician. They explained some of the processes which they had explored, the shared ground which they discovered, and the slow discovery of a language which emerged from this discussion, encapsulated in the compositional work emerging from Nigel the fables and poems from Malene, and the more curatorial response from Peter, seeing ways to place these in the context of programmes and configurations of musicians.

Sadie Harrison-Scheherazade (2013)

Sadie Harrison’s new piece, inspired by one of Malene’s fables for Dover, provided a useful hook into the discussion between Malene and Joanna, talking about their linked works, the discovery of a shared narrative and process, quite literally ‘grounded’ in the materiality that fascinates them, the very direct link, for instance, between the ‘chalk in the pockets’ through to the choice of pigment, the act of writing and the act of painting. This was a natural ‘upbeat’ to a presentation of one of Malene’s fables rooted in Dover.

Malene Skaerved-Lana and Cree (2013), Joanna Jones- Lana and Cree (2013)

 Conversation between Mihailo Trandafilovski and Joanna (in the context of Dominic de Vere’s film of ‘Re-Veil-Le). The artists felt that one of the most exciting aspects of this project was how it pulled in the voices of other collaborators, in this case, the Macedonian composer, Mihailo Trandafilovski, whose ‘Diptych’ became a powerful integer in the final project. Nigel and Peter pointed out that it was doing collaborative work in the Balkans which had stimulated the wish to do the Dover project, and that the link, in the languages to be heard in the town today, to the Balkan republics, is a powerful one.

Mihailo Trandafilovski-‘Colours-Limits’ (2005)

Finally, Nigel and Peter spoke about how this project had provided them with a way to move their long practice of ‘site-specific’ workshop/composition in the Balkans, US, and Asia, back to the UK. They spoke about how this works, the importance of failure, the ‘blind-alley’s which are vital to the process, and the fact that for all the artists, (at this point the conversation opened to everyone), the Sea had long been a central, if sometimes unacknowledged essence on their work. With Malene and Joanna this brought the discussion back to issues of identity, transit, and identification.

Nigel Clarke-‘Pernambuco’ (1994)

There was then a brief open forum discussion, which looked at some issues of history, cultural erosion and sedimentation, and the richness of resources which had been found and accessed through the Dover project.

What people said:

  • “The salon highlighted several important aspects of DAD’s Transit: Pulp & Rags project, bringing the collaborative aspects of the work that Joanna, Peter, Nigel and Malene had done to the foreground. “It seems to me that this had been a multilayered process: apart from the creative dialogue between the artists themselves, I am struck by how much all of the artists had actively engaged with Dover: its history, identity, sounds and colours – hence the immediacy and power of the resulting works. Being a total stranger to Dover before this project, I cannot think of a more illuminating introduction to this fascinating place. I feel privileged to have played a small part, with one of my compositions being played alongside Joanna’s beautiful new work Re-Veil-Le.” (Mihailo Trandafilovski, composer, violinist)
  • Last night was excellent; Russell and I really enjoyed it, so thank you both for inviting me and for the lovely bites and for engaging and inspiring conversations and presentations. (Kate Beaugie, artist)
  • Nicky and I very much enjoyed last nights’ event. (Marc Arnold, music manager)
  • We have not participated in a cultural project like this before and for us it was a chance to engage with new users, not only locally but nationally and internationally as well. We have been really pleased with the results and are inspired by your enthusiasm and inclusive and collaborative style. We would be keen to participate in future projects with DAD. (Gareth Wiltshire National Trust).
  • Thank you so much for last night’s event. Your painting is handsome and extraordinary, and your associate, Peter Sheppard Skaerved is a remarkable colleague. He is obviously intensely committed to your collaboration and a fine performer. His performance with his other violinist of that colleague’s exciting piece was especially memorable. (Stephen Portman, National Trust)

Photos by Miles Umney