Ringing the Changes with Reflections Exhibition and Concert

[19 May 2017]

Reflections launched with an illuminated exhibition and concert by the Butterflies members, staff and was filmed in front of a live audience. After a week of getting to grips with Brendan Murphy’s musical family - all made from glass in a Sunderland workshop - it was time to put all the practising to the test.

The stage is crammed full of instruments now casting and reflecting light in enticing fashion. Stage left stands the majestic glass tubular bells, that not only chime beautifully when struck, but move back and forth in a pleasing pendulous way. Stage right we find the glass marimba, glass keys two rows deep, just waiting to sing out. Out front sit two giant glass goblets, so big you could fit a cat inside, that when played create a soothing mystic sound: it’s all to do with resonant frequency, but to the young and young at heart it is like magic.

The opening piece sees Brendan showcasing many of the instruments on stage, beginning with a violin bow against beautifully crafted slabs of glass, for the atmospheric work ‘Pushchair in the snow,’ inspired by Rob’s early memories of taking his daughter out in the park during her first winter. Darting between the instruments Brendan introduces new instruments each with a different sound, each in harmony with the next.

Other stories are woven in, to create a multi-voiced composition that is layered and looped within the crystalline sound. The music helps the audience picture the scene, the crisp new snow underfoot as father and daughter venture out. With a pleasing touch of circularity we learn that the child has grown up and had a daughter of her own- who Rob can take to the park.

If life had been different for Cyril, he may well have been a professional musician, today as he sits proudly on the stage he has the chance to shine, providing the back bone of the music; building the rhythm, creating drum patterns on the cahon and his own set of bongos.

Brendan has a wonderful storyteller way of introducing individual numbers, recounting all the names and events surrounding how each new piece came about. We learn the origins of ‘Cyril’s Chromatic Bolero’… played live today by Cyril, Brenda, Charlie, Sara and Rachel, we also hear the voices of Francis Askew pupils, repeating the words generations’ of boat captains, have listened out for on a stormy night, during the BBC’s Shipping Forecast.

“Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger, Fisher, German Bight, Humber…”

The sound of those names and the dramatic accompanying music - played by the band is imaginatively titled ‘Dreams of Shrimp.’ It is characterised by drone and bell sounds, calling to mind our own recent maritime history, which some of the Butterflies and their families, played a role in.

Other musical numbers contain positive statements derived from poetry and writing workshops during the year. ‘Go forward with love, reaching out to hold hands…’ all becoming affirmations of unity, strength and fellowship.

‘I am delighted to have been able to play music with these fine musicians,’ Brendan announces, before introducing the grand finale. - The closing number in the concert is more akin to experimental jazz, than the shimmering sounds that have gone before, it goes by the name ‘Mackerel Madness’. It is a noisy affair on and offstage with hand-clapping erupting spontaneously throughout the audience.

The jam improv session at the end of the event is the very essence of participation, people taking risks, forgetting their nerves and fears and making music. I join in with the sea glass shakers and chiming bells, Joan plays a solo on the marimba we name the ‘Silver Cod.’ The room undergoes a transformation once more, faces animated and aglow, even those less responsive, are nodding their heads or have a finger gently tapping the side of their chair.

‘Can’t get Cyril off the stage.’

‘Loved every minute of it.’

‘It’s the first time I’ve done that.’

‘Well there’s no time like the present’

‘Do you want to hear the wine glasses again?’ Yes please!’

At the behest of Brendan’s touch, the standards ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Can’t help falling in love’, ‘Michelle’ and ‘Favourite things’… ring out on the uncommon instrument. The group take this time to admire the works in the exhibition: colourful lanterns float against the side curtains as if unaided. Glass jars engraved with words of support and love by the members back in March, now sit suspended on wooden shelves, their messages illuminated for all to share. On the opposite side of the theatre space see’s the return of the prayer like flags with the name of each of the butterflies members proudly displayed, reminding us to think about the person and not focus on the dementia.

June Cooke Director Butterflies Memory Loss Support Group thanked Kardomah 94 and Mal Scott for the kind use of the theatre space; thank yous and applause also went to Brendan Murphy for enriching all our lives with music and fun; the audience, the butterflies and all the partner organisations for their support and participation; lead artist Frances for all her work leading up to the exhibition and Jerome and Michelle for documenting the year so far…

[Michelle Dee]
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Supported by Hull UK City of Culture 2017