Brass calls

St Helens, UK, 2015

Brass Calls, a sound work using fragments of speech translated from personal and public use, into bugle calls that punctuates St Helen’s town square, echoed the civic back on to itself.

This exciting artistic collaboration sought to bring St Helens’ issues to the forefront through specially composed musical compositions broadcast into Church Square in the centre of town. The music evolved from the bugle call; a short tune, originating as a military signal and routinely used as a way to make an instruction or call to action. French & Mottershead researched, interviewed and earwigged in a bid to capture a sense of the borough’s affairs and relay them in 16 brand new bugle calls.

The resulting work, Brass Calls, was made up of short musical pieces that call on people to take action. The work filled Church Square with sudden, bursts of brilliant music for two full days at regular intervals as citizens went about their daily business. Working with composer Adam D J Taylor, the calls were created from gathering personal tales and local phrases, turned into musical scores that were performed and recorded by The Haydock Band, one of the oldest community organisations in St Helens.

Locally relevant issues such as zero hour contracts; town centre skateboarding, the Hardshaw Centre benches and Saints were on the agenda, along with personal tales from St Heleners.

The subjects chosen in the calls convey human stories about relationships to one another, to work, and the town. Each mini-drama inspired a lyric, written as a short poetic call to action. From a parent calling ‘get out yer pit’ to their teenager, to a skateboarder defending their rights, and the clarion call to keep the last glass ‘ribbon floatin’. These were then elevated into brief, beautiful musical phrases filling Church Square.

Commissioned by Heart of Glass

Concept and Lyrics: French & Mottershead

Musical Composition: Adam D J Taylor

Musical Director: Mark Quinn

Played by: The Haydock Band – Rotha Brooks, Mark Doran, Peter Eddleston, Janice Fitch, Lisa Forbes, Helen Geoghegan, Mark Greaves, Martin Halliwell, Steve Higham, Ruth Hurst, Tom Hurst, Godfrey Irving, Adrian Kearsley, Iain McIntyre, Daniel Meadowcroft, Nicola Moran, Lottie Nelson, Lorraine O’Brien, Russ Prescott, Julie Ratcliffe, Heather Richardson, Hannah Roughley, Carmela Southward, Adam D J Taylor (guest), Shauni Tyrer, Karen Unsworth and Mike Unsworth.

Digital Audio Recording and Post Production: Geoffrey Poulton, Harlequin Recording

Live Sound: Charlie Broadhurst, Event Sound Limited

Placard Carriers: Ant O’Shea and Chel Logan

The artists extend thanks to The Haydock Band, Rainford United Reform Church and Michelle Wren, and all those who contributed their personal stories and knowledge of local issues to inform the lyrics, including; Godfrey Irving, Mike Lindley, Geoff Jackson, Jacqui Priestly and Joan Birkett. And especially to Heather Richardson and Martin Wills for their input in the writing process and placards carriers Ant Shea and Chel Logan.