INTERVIEW: Kerrin Tatman | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Sage Gateshead’s Artists in Residence programme culminates across June in a series of complex and captivating musical delights – but even among this year’s projects, the scope of Kerrin Tatman’s Requiem for a Fading World is a wonder unto itself. “This has been the most ambitious piece of music I’ve worked on to date,” they say. “I’ve written for large ensembles before like orchestras, but never done something with so many different components.”

A fantastical, post-apocalyptic tale for modern times, the new piece is set in a landscape of perpetual winter, where fuel resources have all but run dry. Amidst this hellscape, we follow a mother and daughter as they navigate contrasting paths: one leads an army into a deadly battle, hellbent on capturing the final remnants of fuel available to humankind; while the other seeks greener pastures by working with the natural world.

Written for a choir, solo singers and an ensemble of 13 musicians, it features English lyrics by songwriter Rosie Bristow (Holy Moly & The Crackers), coupled with excerpts from the original Latin Requiem text. Blending contemporary classical, choral and folk influences, it also incorporates a strong visual element, with audiences at its debut performance – at Sage Gateshead on Thursday 22nd June – able to follow the narrative via artist Kris Stewart’s accompanying comic strip.

“The narrative is very much inspired by our present climate emergency and the views of people on different sides of the argument – but it’s also a wider exploration of how disjointed we have become from each other more generally through politics, technology and religion, and how we need to look for new ways to unite us again to progress forward,” Kerrin explains. “Although it’s inspired by serious themes, we tried to embed them in the piece subtly. The audience shouldn’t feel like they are being lectured during a performance. It should also be possible to enjoy the music in its own right, without needing to follow all the narrative components involved in the storytelling.”

The narrative is very much inspired by our present climate emergency and the views of people on different sides of the argument

Assembling constituent parts for such a sprawling piece was a daunting challenge stacked with creative conundrums – not least the search for voices to fill Requiem for a Fading World’s two lead roles. “We ran a national call out for the mother and daughter, and are thrilled to be working with Northumberland-based solo alto Jacqui Wicks and London-based solo soprano Emily Gibson, respectively. Both singers have very different but equally incredible voices which really suit the characters. The instrumentalists and choir are all North East-based musicians at the top of their game, and it is a privilege to be collaborating with them to bring the project to life.”

Of this year’s Artists in Residence, Kerrin is particularly effusive of the benefits the scheme has offered: “It would’ve been impossible for me to write this piece without the breathing space and support of the residency alongside my other work commitments. Getting the balance right to allow enough time for the creative work to be achieved properly has required a lot of discipline. With my other hat on, I run Newcastle Puppetry Festival, and it’s been a bit of a juggling act ensuring both have had enough of my attention.

“I’ve learnt so much about composition and my own style of writing through this process, and it’s been a fantastic lifeline to work with collaborators Rosie Bristow, Becky Musgrove and Kris Stewart,” they continue. “I’ve been lucky to access fantastic resources, industry contacts, career advice and financial support over the last nine months, and being able to work at such an inspirational building surrounded by amazing musicians has pushed me forward to complete the project. It’s been transformative to my career as a composer.”

Kerrin Tatman performs Requiem for a Fading World at Sage Gateshead on Thursday 22nd June.

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