Feature: Six Of The Best – Jessie Summerhayes / Dream Show – The Ciderhouse Rebellion | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Award-winning folk improvisers The Ciderhouse Rebellion and poet Jessie Summerhayes present an evening of music and spoken word inspired by the landscape and industrial history of Rosedale Valley. Taking place at Cleveland Ironstone Mining Institute on Thursday 6th July,  the artists team up to present tracks from two albums released in 2022: Ironstone Tales and Genius Loci 2: The Valley Of Iron.

Here, Jessie Summerhayes gives us a six of the best and The Ciderhouse Rebellion tell us about their dream show…

Six Of The Best – Jessie Summerhayes

Influences and six of the best — a hard question before I even start. What does ‘the best’ mean? Am I lauding technical skill — is it about artistic brilliance — or is it simply about storytelling and which stories move me? The former feeds the latter, in all probability, and poetry and music for me are about feeling the essence of things; so, tell me a story, really tell me I mean, and I’m listening. No doubt, having read the little bit about me and what I do at the beginning of this piece, you’ll be expecting spoken word artists — the very best of what I do, Kae Tempest and the like — but, really, influences for me are far broader and skip wildly across the arts world, all united by whatever story it is that sounds in the sternum.  

1. Paul Simon: I love Simon and Garfunkel, but really Graceland is the album that I know best. It was something that was often on in the background and Father and Daughter has got to be my favourite (admittedly this is because of its use in the Wild Thornberrys Movie in a particularly moving scene with a helicopter and a chimp in a suitcase). One of my first proper gig memories was watching Paul Simon at a festival, rather uncomfortably held up on my Dad’s back so I could see anything at all — and really I remember very little, except that it seemed important at the time and now I’m very glad I saw/heard him. Beautiful songs and brilliant stories all told not just by the lyrics, but also with the melodies and bass undercurrents; in fact, I quite often can’t listen to it because of the risk of getting lost in it all — not sensible whilst driving, for example. 

2. Max Porter: Hope is the thing with feathers (the start of a Emily Dickinson poem, about hope being a constant and undemanding companion)… except Porter changed all that… Grief is the Thing with Feathers that perches in the soul. Yes, yes. Very dramatic. But really, this author knows how to change the way you see. His experimental writing, blending voices and prose and poetry, has been deeply influential — and changed the way I think about writing altogether. There’s something about just letting it all go and scratching raw emotions onto the page that supersedes everything else. Lots of full stops. And hanging lines

3. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: If you’ve not read any of her work you absolutely should: it’s beautiful and brave and utterly brilliant. The stories she tells are the kind that sit with you for a long time after reading, and invite you to revisit them over and over again. The first time I read anything she wrote was for my degree, and I sat down with a sigh expecting another long slog through an important literary work. Only half of that expectation was accurate, and I was left sitting in the chair wishing the book was longer as soon as I was finished. I think, for me, Half of a Yellow Sun is my favourite: it’s gritty, and sadder than sad, and says so many things, and all in all just beautiful — I’ve read it over and over, and each time with a deeper reverence in a way, because… what a story, and what a way of telling.

4. W.B Yeats: My grandma used to read Yeats to me instead of bedtime stories. I think that says it all really. Reading Yeats feels like listening to the Skye Boat song (another one of the best — no. 4 in parallel universe list).

5. J.R.R Tolkien: well.

6. Wassily Kandinsky: no stories here, you might say, staring at the endless circles and lines and circles and lines… except it’s exactly the opposite to me. The careful abstraction tells all the stories all at once, and they are floating around in some encoded cloud on the wall that speaks to your blood, not your brain. Some kind of sublime. Maybe I’m Romanticising (for this we can blame Shelley, and Wordsworth and Keats… would you look at that! There’s a sneaky extra three). This is what I want my words to do, say everything all at once, though floating around in a mildly unintelligible cloud is not the aim!

Dream Show – The Ciderhouse Rebellion

Murray and I have often talked about our dream gig … it varies a bit, but one idea stands out. An important part of our music-making over the last few years has been our series of Genius Loci films — performances out in the wilds, allowing the spirit of the place we are in to speak through our music. That’s actually the concept behind our award-winning instrumental album Valley of Iron as well our Ironstone Tales project with the amazing poet, my daughter, Jessie Summerhayes. We have performed on moors and up hills, but mostly only to sheep, birds and the weather … so … for this dream gig, we will do our Genius Loci thing, but to a proper Glastonbury-sized audience and at the ultimate Genius Loci venue: the summit of Mount Everest.

The technical challenges of this are in hand. Pressurised air will be blown into Murray’s accordion bellows, as normal function is considered unlikely in the thin air at that altitude. The audience will hover around the peak on large platforms suspended from airships, as will the surround-sound speaker system. Small drones will serve the audience with a constant supply of hot drinks and refill their hot water bottles. Oxygen will be blown directly across each platform, as well as over the performers, to avoid the need for irritating breathing masks. Toilet facilities will be the standard Glastonbury ‘long-drop’ system, with the obvious advantage that waste products will freeze long before they hit the ground and will be intercepted in mid-air by the scoop drones. No pets will be allowed. Nor sheep.

The audience will be all our fans, and everyone who we think should be our fans. The gig will not be optional, and potential fans will only be excused for health reasons (with a doctor’s note). The back row of platforms will be reserved for world leaders, plutocrats and the unreasonably influential (again, attendance is not optional). They have to be at the back to help them get over the excessive feeling of entitlement that no doubt goes with their status. They will gradually absorb our subliminal aesthetic message — a cunning form of musical brainwashing that focuses on nature and ecological renewal. The hidden beauty of this concert is that it addresses many world problems through changing the opinions of those who pull the world’s strings. Moreover, certain ‘problem’ leaders will be placed over trapdoors operated by secret and untraceable accordion chord configurations (not even listed in Murray’s comprehensive accordion-chord encyclopaedia). Their sudden and unexpected disappearances will be widely celebrated.

Obviously, the special guest will be David Attenborough, who will have his own platform at the front, which he can share with anyone he feels is deserving. Actually, he can even bring sheep, if he wants to.

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