Water music at Tremayne

Working with St Keverne band and bandleader Gareth Churcher, artist Abigail Reynolds devised an exceptional musical event for the autumn equinox.

On the evening of Sunday 23 September 2018, a flotilla of seventy assorted vessels gathered near Tremayne quay, on the upper reaches of the Helford River, as the tide reached full flood. This small armada – of yachts, sailing boats, RIBs, pilot boats, dories, rowing boats, kayaks, canoes, ferry boats, gigs and even SUPs – carried the audience for an event devised by artist Abigail Reynolds and performed by St Keverne band. 

The afternoon turned golden, the wind dropped and an exceptional stillness came over the assembled company as the first drumbeats rolled out across the water and the band began to play.

In dialogue with Abigail Reynolds, band leader Gareth Churcher had composed a piece of music specially conceived for the site, with small clusters of musicians on the opposite bank and on a beach down river, in addition to the main band on the quay. As the music started the kayak ‘Ghost’ appeared amongst the assembled boats – paddled by artist Adam Chodzko and carrying singer Katie Kirk. 

The composition for Tremayne was written in nine movements, tracing the progress from new moon to full, through Waxing Crescent and Waxing Gibbous. From the apex or centre of the piece, Full of the Moon, the composition was simply played in reverse, mirroring the phases of the waning moon. Gareth Churcher’s composition aimed slowly to focus the mind toward the pull of the moon, the tides, and the rotation of the earth at this point of the year when the moon comes closest to the earth. 

Described by Oliver Rackham as ‘one of the very few places in England where ancient woodland meets the sea’, the Helford River is technically a ‘ria’ (an ancient river valley that drowned when sea levels rose after the last Ice Age). Its upper reaches are an expanse of mud at low tide, while the lower branches of the sessile oaks dip into salt water at high tide. The ancient woods are remnants of wild woods that were coppiced by the earliest humans and have been continuously harvested for fuel (especially needed for the production of tin and lime) from that time until the recent past.

Using footage filmed by audience members and by the fixed camera on the prow of ‘Ghost’, Abigail Reynolds has compiled a short film as a memento of this event. The concert was dedicated to Mark Wilkin, who played as a drummer with St Keverne Band and died in a motorbike accident in May 2018.

Image: Steve Tanner © CAST

'Tremayne' Sunday 23 September 2018

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