These songs were written over a number of years in response to the loss of my mother. They have been companions in grief, composed at my piano, wandering through streets and sung into recorders on train platforms. I chose to write a song-cycle because I wanted to create a work that accumulates, evolves and transforms just as the passage of a grief does. It is also a recognition of the writing process, of assembling fragments into a coherent whole, the arrangement and rearrangement of the material of one’s life that grief demands.
My mother was from Rwanda and in some songs I sing in her first tongue, Kinyarwanda, emulating folk songs I listened to with her on old cassettes. In others, I sing in a language known only to me, as I used to do when making up songs as a boy. My other musical traces come, perhaps, from my Irish father and my affection for blues.
This performance of Very Present Tense is a preamble to its Liverpool premiere at Metal’s historic Edge Hill Station arts hub on the 8th and 9th August, where it will be performed with an ensemble comprising piano, string quartet, double bass, trumpet and saxophone.
Written by Christopher Simpson Design: Fiammetta Horvat and Rebecca Yolland
Arranged by Tom Havelock
Performed by Christopher Simpson & Tom Havelock
Christopher Simpson is an actor. His recent film roles include the romantic lead, Bangla boy Karim, in ‘Brick Lane’ and Leeds drug dealer Qassim, in ‘Mischief Night’. In the theatre he has played classical roles: Pericles with the RSC/Cardboard Citizens, Dionysus in the ‘Bacchae’ at the Abbey, Dublin, ‘Bharata’ in the Ramayana at The National Theatre as well as working in visual theatre with The David Glass Ensemble and Yellow Earth. In television he is best known for his portrayal of the twins in ‘White Teeth’ among other work which includes ‘Second Generation’ and ‘State of Play’. He will appear in Spooks: Code9 which airs on BBC3 from 11th August and he is looking forward to commencing filming as the leading role in Terence Davies’ latest, ‘Mad About The Boy’.
Tom Havelock studied cello with Paul Cox before reading Modern Languages at Oxford. His band Psychid released an album through BMG and toured nationwide, supporting The Electric Soft Parade and Radiohead, and he has also recorded with musicians such as Tom McRae, Emma Townshend and The Unbelievable Truth. He was composer for the film musical My Father’s Son earlier this year, and is currently developing material with his new band, Hook & The Twin.
With thanks to: Jude Kelly, Collette Bailey, Ian Brownbill, Jenny Porter and Siva Zagel at Metal for their ongoing and warm support of my work, Aaron Cezar, Andrew Hochhauser, Cush, Elizabeth Mills, Fiammetta Horvat, Fiona Simpson, Hilda Maclean, Joan Simpson, Norman Simpson, Mel Cooper, Melanie Abrahams, Nasheed Faruqi, Ness Evans, Paul Gambaccini, Paul Harris, Rebecca The Venerable Yolland, Scilla Elworthy and William Hall.