A Derelict Chorale

Photo by Jon Pratty

A Derelict Chorale

Spring 2020 saw tales of Hastings’ America Ground brought to life by UK writer, composer and producer Chris Thorpe-Tracey as part of a new project by MSL Digital, called A Derelict Chorale. From January until Easter, Chris was Artist-in-Residence within the America Ground, exploring the fractious town politics of the 1800s, including some of the key characters and incidents. In collaboration with Hastings’ thriving social media history groups and local musicians Chris built connections and searched for stories. By pulling these stories from the bricks and mortar he breathed life into them in tunes and tales using material from the Hastings Museum collection, local archives and from the musical memory of the community.

MSL has since commissioned three creatives – Rebecca Child, Mary Hooper and Juliet Russell – to create pieces in response to Chris’s song cycle, collectively called Remixed & RemadeTheir works feature as a contribution to Coastal Currents 2020 and can be found on the Smart Heritage Map, and on social media. 

More about Chris and A Derelict Chorale

Over the past 20 years Chris has toured and recorded more than 12 solo albums and collaborations. He has also always been interested in the roots of where music comes from in the UK. In 2015 he was made the inaugural National Trust Creative Fellow at The Workhouse, in Southwell, Nottinghamshire. At the National Trust-owned Workhouse, Chris embedded with staff and volunteers to create a new set of folk ballads to capture the voices of those who lived at one of the first Victorian-era workhouses. In 2013 Chris was also Writer-in-Residence at the Royal Pavilion & Museums in Brighton, finding new ways to share stories from across the museum sites.

To set the political and social context for his work, Chris has also researched and written a Spotify playlist which excavates other music of the Napoleonic era, many of which echo the themes exposed in his song cycle.

A key feature of the residency, funded via an Arts Council England lottery grant, is that Chris will make the work shareable and copyright-free. The recorded product of workshops will be hosted on MSL’s RSA-funded Smart Heritage Map, an interactive platform accessible on the streets of Hastings and to wider online audiences. Click on the links to hear Chris’s songs:

The Murder of Captain Aldridge, The Rise of the America Ground, Doin’ the Rope Walk Tangle, On Cuckoo Hill, Eight acres (6th December, 1927), The Battling Breeds, A Party in the Field (19th July, 1832), Four Eagles, Unholy Trinity, Eviction (Midsummer 1835).

You can watch and hear what Chris has to say in a one-hour video interview about the background to the project including the making of the music: https://youtu.be/LGAeFVRmGYU and a 30-minute version of the same video concentrating on researching and writing the songs: https://youtu.be/6ZUtLLLta4A

Go to our Salons page where local musician and composer, Debbie Warren, and historical researcher, Julie Gidlow, open up the suite of songs and interview Chris about the work. See Julie’s America Ground blog which gives a fascinating insight into the area that helped Chris develop his work for A Derelict Chorale.

A Derelict Chorale is supported by Arts Council England, Hastings Borough Council, and the East Sussex Arts Partnership.

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