Tony Haynes, composer/director of the Grand Union Orchestra, tells the inside story of his music for the orchestra, its musicians and colourful history.
Whatever happens in 2020, it is surely going to be an extraordinary year. In the last few Posts, I’ve highlighted the need to reflect on our society today and the necessity of bringing people together again in some kind of harmony. This requires empathy – the capacity to imagine and understand the lives and concerns of other people, however different from your own.
One of the best ways to stimulate and develop empathy is through the medium of culture – by encouraging people to appreciate and share each other’s social and spiritual values. These values are most powerfully expressed through art; the most direct and emotional art-form is music; and music is the most effective means of communicating across differences in religion, language or customs.
We still need to challenge bigotry and intolerance, of course, and the stridency of language and the use of violence harnessed to promote them. However, now is surely the time – more than ever in this century – to present a wholly positive, imaginative and creative view of how the world, and our society, might become a better place.
Throughout 2020, therefore, the work of the Grand Union Orchestra – which already numbers musicians from three generations! – will be taking Regeneration as its theme.
Our programme is about renewal, hope, making a fresh start, bringing together people of all communities in shared creative artistic enterprise, whatever their age, language, religion or cultural heritage. It is above all about empowering the younger generation, especially emerging artists, to lead change, by passing on to them the skills and experience acquired by professional musicians and singers from older generations from many different cultural backgrounds.
All projects will have a common theme, based on music and songs which celebrate humanity, while acknowledging present injustices and past historical wrongs.
As a foretaste of the scale of this programme and the breadth of ground it will cover, here are twelve pieces from the Grand Union repertoire which we used to convey GUO’s seasonal greetings in a contemporary setting three years ago:
1 for all and all for one – Ça ira (Post 21). The marching song of the French Revolution seemed an appropriate piece to open with!
2 wary travellers – Mirage (Post 61)
3 different world views – The Golden Highway (Post 13)
4 poignant voices – The Flame of Love (Post 31)
5 dancers whirling – Bhangra Brass (Post 24)
6 scents beguiling – The Perfumes of Paradise Blues (Post 4)
7 workers toiling – Riding the Iron Tiger (Post 35)
8 empires falling – Music and War (Post 9)
9 conflicts escalating – Collateral Damage (Post 16)
10 musicians harmonising – The Song of Reconciliation (Post 10)
11 singers hoping – If Music Could… (Post 1)
12 drummers drumming – Eleggua Kó, Eleggua Rá (Post 3). I couldn’t resist this authentic reference to the original song to finish – and it’s an African 12/8 rhythm!