Opera North Blog

Gerry Diver searches out the music of everyday life

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Composer and musician Gerry Diver on the inspiration behind The Speech Project, a unique journey into the musical soul of Ireland featuring recorded interviews with great Irish singers. Look out for the second part of Gerry's blog ahead of the performance of The Speech Project at the Howard Assembly Room on Saturday 24 March.

"It all started when I was listening to an interview with the late great Irish accordion player Joe Cooley - the lyricism and natural melody of his voice sounded so very musical that I felt compelled to see if it would be possible to literally 'play' his conversation on my fiddle!  One thing led to another and before I knew it I had two tracks which really left me feeling very inspired!  These two tracks became "When in New York" and "Old Time Musicians"

"The next question which came to mind was "Who else would I love to interview?" Through a mutual friend I sent the two brand new Joe Cooley tracks to Christy Moore who invited me over to Dublin to collaborate on some more tracks for the (by now) embryonic Speech Project album. It was fantastic working with Christy - he really has been so supportive during the making of the album and also since its release - a true gentleman. Following on from the Christy Moore tracks, Shane MacGowan, Damien Dempsey, Martin Hayes and Danny Meehan all showed up with their own genius and charm and provided tales and yarns which became the raw ingredients for the rest of the album and live show.  I also felt very drawn to an old archive recording of the Irish traveller singer Margaret Barry whose voice also features.

"Live, there will be specially commissioned video art projected onto a large screen on the stage. I've had some amazing filmmakers work on the visuals, namely, Will McConnell, James McDonald and Matt Jamie. The visuals are running in tight sync with the musicians on stage. Some of the interviews feature on the visuals plus some archive footage and plenty of stunning montages.

"I suppose that like many people, I feel that there is music in everyday life and that music doesn't just occur when one sits down at the piano or the guitar.  I've always been fascinated with language and the way people speak. The Speech Project is my way of playing with the uniquely Irish way of talking.  Irish people tend to have their own rhythm and cadence. The Speech Project is about taking these innate features of the Irish dialect to create something new and (hopefully!) exciting!"

Gerry Diver, Feb 2012

Watch a video of 'Old Time Musicians' from The Speech Project below:

Old Time Musicians - Music Video from Gerry Diver on Vimeo.

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