Visions, Voices & Emanations!

November 7, 2022

Welcome to our Blake Society Blog and news of a Blake season at St James’s’ Church, Piccadilly.

This is our inaugural Emanation! We’ve borrowed ‘Emanation’, that mysterious term so beloved of Blake in his later poems, for the title of our Blog. We intend Emanations to be a place to discuss Blakean subjects and to draw your attention to events or news related to Blake. 

And what a great subject for our first Emanation. St James’s Church, Piccadilly, in collaboration with The Blake Society, are holding a season of events in November and December, Visions & Voices: Echoes of William Blake. 

Blake was born on 28 November 1757 and was baptised on 11 December that year at St James’s, his family’s parish church. (Incredibly you can still see the Grinling Gibbons where baby William was baptised.)

The first event in the season is Susheela Raman, Jason Whittaker & Guests: William Blake in Songs & Words on Friday 18 November. Singer/composer Susheela Raman, with musical collaborator Sam Mills, will present her stunning original settings of Blake’s poems, in particular the ‘Proverbs of Hell’ from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. You can watch Susheela’s sinister interpretation of ‘The Sick Rose’ here.

We’re particularly pleased to say that our very own Jason Whittaker will be adding to Susheela’s music with spoken word passages from Blake’s work. There will also be a performance by drummer and composer Charles Hayward. 

Next up, on Thursday 24 November is another musical treat, The Westbrook Blake – Mike Westbrook OBE & Guests. Mike Westbrook is a legendary jazz pianist and composer, and his settings of Blake’s poetry (sometimes known as Glad Day and Bright As Fire) are some of his most beloved and celebrated work. (Many of the pieces were originally composed for Adrian Mitchell’s 1971 play, Tyger, well worth a read if you can find a copy.) Speaking personally, I went to see the Mike Westbrook Orchestra perform these pieces at the Cadogan Hall in 2021 and they instantly became my favourite musical interpretations of Blake. For the concert at St James’s Mike Westbrook will lead a small ensemble including the two original singers, Kate Westbrook and Phil Minton. You can watch a stirring sample of the Westbrook Blake here.

Then, on Saturday 26 November, Dr Kerry Ryan will lead a fun Writing Workshop, using Blake’s poems and paintings to fire our imaginations.

And finally, on Sunday 11 December, The Blake Singers and Guests will perform Burning Bright, a Blake Anniversary Concert. The Blake Singers are a new choir specialising in the performance of choral settings of poetry and literature. They will perform arrangements of Blake poems set to music by Tavener and Elgar, as well as extracts from Vaughan Williams’ Ten Blake Songs and Britten’s Songs and Proverbs of William Blake. The Blake Singers choir has been formed especially for this event, coordinated by Didier Rochard and Sarah Rennix.

We hope you’ll agree that this season is a tremendously exciting way to celebrate the connection of Blake with St James’s, Piccadilly. You can read more about all of the events and book tickets at https://www.sjp.org.uk/about-music-arts-ideas/visions-voices-echoes-of-william-blake/

We hope to see you there!

To complete our rundown of Blakean musical events, news reaches us of an evening of improvised music and visuals inspired by Blake. William Blake Celebration with Lo-fi Improvised Music Ensemble + Sue Lynch solo will take place on Monday 21 November at IKLECTIK in Lambeth, a stone’s throw from William and Catherine’s home on Hercules Road. More info on this one can be found at https://iklectikartlab.com/william-blake-celebration-w-lo-fi-improvised-music-ensemble-sue-lynch/

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