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Songwriting with Ex Forces Veterans

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2020 has been a very strange year, but despite its challenges I still managed to produce some great music with 'Stand Easy Productions'. Stand Easy are a live performance organisation setup with the intention of supporting sick and traumatised war veterans through engagement with live theatre arts. This year however, due to the restrictions of the lockdown, a new approach was pioneered using video production as a vehicle for theatrical and musical expression. It was a great pleasure to be asked to contribute to this project in the capacity of musical director. Over the course of an intensive four week period we worked together in a carefully monitored bubble, doing our best to stay healthy and safe. It was a real challenge to compose songs and produce video while masked and socially distanced. There were some tense and difficult moments when the material brought up intense feelings for some of the participants but everyone held-fast and we managed to get through the process and

Songwriting Workshop at Falkland

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A very cold and frosty Sunday in December 2018 saw a group of shivering songwriting talents arrive at the workshop space in Falkland's  Centre for Stewardship . It was truly chilly outside but we soon had a roaring fire going and things began to warm up in no time.  After the obligatory round of coffee, welcomes and introductions I presented the group with a bespoke PowerPoint presentation on songwriters and their words of wisdom covering everyone from Jimmy Webb to Carol King and beyond. Next, I introduced the 'seven stories' concept and some of the basic ideas behind narrative songwriting techniques. To demonstrate this I showed how I had come to create the Dundee Back Stories Songbook using a year of local newspaper headlines and I went into some detail on the the creation of one of the resulting songs - Deadline Carriageway   the terrifying tale of an errant gritter wagon at rush hour! After lunch everyone proceeded to find a quiet(ish) space to hone o

Dighty Times Songbook

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Songs rooted in the local, this time Dundee's Dighty burn. Over a period of 2 months I worked with a group of 12 adults at Fintry community centre to create a suite of songs based on memories and reflections of growing up and living near the Dighty. Once a working tributary running through the heart of the city it was the lifeblood to industry, agriculture and community life. Using a variety of songwriting and creative writing techniques the group gradually produced a series of songs acknowledging personal reflections on life near the Dighty water. Amazingly, most of the group had no songwriting experience and very little instrumental expertise. During this process, I was able to use my own musical and songwriting abilities to suggest and provide musical ideas upon which to hang and structure the incredible lyrical ideas that the group produced. Perhaps the most rewarding part of the process was to witness the individuals actually perform their own songs in front of a microph

Back Stories Online

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The launch of the 'Back Stories' songbook at the Duncan of Jordanstone masters show in Dundee was a great success and I was fortunate to be invited to perform songs from the collection every lunchtime at the Dundee City Commons Festival hosted at Roseangle Arts Cafe. It was a great opportunity to be able to perform the songs to the public in a live setting. It also gave me a chance to explain the origins and context of the work and to distribute copies of the songbook - nice to see people reading the lyrics and sometimes actually singing along as I performed the songs. Since graduating I've been documenting and archiving my work and part of this has involved creating an online presence for some of the projects, so here is a link to the Back Stories Songbook site where you can read about the project listen to the tunes and see the manuscripts and newspaper articles that inspired the songs. Enjoy. http://dundeesongbook.blogspot.co.uk/ You can also download a PDF of t

The P.P. Bell Archive

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P.P. Bell My great grandfather Patrick (P.P.) Bell was a well known entertainer in Dundee between 1895 and 1943.The recent discovery of a songbook compiled by his son Hugh Wilson Bell sparked a trail of research and discovery into the life and times of my musical ancestor and resulted in an extensive archive project which contributed to the overall research base of my masters degree at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design here in Dundee. Having recently completed my masters degree I have begun the task of archiving my research on the web and presenting my findings to the public. This project informed and propelled much of the work I have since done on local and vernacular creativity and especially the role of context sensitive song and poetry in relation to cultural and historical commentary. It in turn led on to the creation of my own 'Back Stories' Dundee songbook in 2015...(more on that to follow). The P.P. Bell Archive site can be found here

Back Stories Songbook

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2015 sees the completion of my masters degree at Duncan of Jordanstone here in Dundee. It has been heartening to see my 'Back Stories' songbook project return full circle to its source - The Dundee Courier and Advertiser. They've published a very nice article that gives the whole whole project a lovely cyclical sense of completion. Here's a wee video they shot of me sitting on Broughty Ferry sea front singing the song 'Victoria' that I wrote about the new V&A building in Dundee. Thanks Courier. Read the full Courier article here. Visit the Back Stories Songbook website here

Songs Of The City - Update

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My 'Songs of the City' poetry/art project was featured recently on a short local television news article by STV here in Dundee. It was a Monday morning when they filmed this....say no more. Visit Songs of the City website here . ( Many thanks are due to Jag Betty for bringing it to the awareness of the media. Jag also has a page about his local exploration activities here : https://www.facebook.com/strangeplacesinscotland/timeline )