Merry Christmas 2015

It’s coming up to the end of 2015 and a time to reflect on the year past for each of us personally and in the world order. If you catch one of those reviews of the year on the news channels it will mostly be grim reminders of quite unfathomable atrocities, disasters and sorrow.

Yet we still, somehow, find optimism for the year ahead. I’m thankful that hope is the last of our emotions to die, and that resilience seems to be an auto-response.

I am, undoubtedly, a bumbling optimist, because if I look beyond the bloody nasty things that go on, the hate that seems to rule so many lives, I can find plenty to cheer me.  People striving to do good things, to help others, to make beauty and enjoy it.

I wish for you peace, love and happiness.

Lifeshare at Christmas 2015

lifehsareNot long till Lifeshare at Christmas, and once again I am seeking performers willing to give half an hour for the homeless of Manchester.

Lifeshare at Christmas is a week-long drop in at the charity’s premises on Dantzic Street in Manchester, where everyone gets a warm welcome, meals, medical support, chats, games and entertainment.  It is entirely run by volunteers, from the 23rd – the 29th December.

LifeshareStageIt’s a very informal setting.  There’s a small stage, a digital piano and an accompanist if you need one (me).  Performances are generally at 11 or 2, each day.

For people who have slipped below our society’s survival line, your performance is more than half an hour’s entertainment; it’s a gesture that shows  those who are suffering  the practical challenges of homelessness, and the emotional challenges of rejection and exclusion, that they have not been left behind.

LifesharePerformersIf any of my friends and colleagues who have taken part in previous years could leave a comment about how the experience was (even if you can’t do it this year), it might encourage others!

Not sure whether to go for it? Comment here or email me.

Thanks

The Lifeshare Loops from Realstrings: Hip-Hop and RnB

The Lifeshare Loops from Realstrings: Hip-Hop and RnB

This is a loops pack with a difference.  You get 28, 4-bar, real strings phrases, minor  and modal keys, recorded at 90 bpm, written to work with urban, RnB and hip-hop styles, performed with all the guts and emotion of real strings.

And your money goes to the homeless charity Lifeshare.

All proceeds from the sale of this pack go to Lifeshare.

Homelessness is a devastaing social problem and it’s up to us to respond.  Buy this pack to get the raw emotion of real strings in your music and help to alleviate the hardship of homelessness as well.

With thanks to the string players (Sarah Brandwood-Spencer, Paulette Bayley, Alex Stemp, Simon Turner and Nick Trygstad), my colleague Julian Cole who has developed a Kontakt version, George Atkins at 80 Hertz studio and the guys at Loopmasters.

Zadok: the chords

Chord progressions fascinate me.  They communicate so much without ever being a melody.  For an arranger, the chord progession of a song is a good place to start to look for counter melodies.

Zadok The Priest by Handel, written in the 18th century has one of the best intros in music. There is no theme as such, yet the chord progression and the pulsing/rolling string arrangement is instantly recognisable.

We recorded the strings for this 22 bar introduction and I’ve tried to get my head round the chord progression in this short video.

Help yourself to the strings recording (6 separate stems).  These audio files are copyright free.

Lifeshare Fundraiser

Lifeshare 30th anniversary fundraiser

Here comes the UK general election 2015 and amongst the political footballs are the usual suspects – health, education, defense, immigration, blah, blah, blah and welfare.

Btw, this isn’t a political post, I’m trying to sell you tickets for a fundraising gig.

When it comes to the social problem of people who are homeless, all the parties will have well meaning words and commitments about funding.  In reality, the solution isn’t just about money, it’s about us and our society.  That’s not really a government issue, but a personal and a community issue.

lifehsareAs a volunteer at the Manchester charity Lifeshare, I get a small glimpse into the lives of people who are homeless.  They might be living on the streets, perhaps in temporary accommodation or sofa-surfing or any number of other permutations for survival.  I can not begin to understand the difficulties they are facing, but I do believe I have a responsibility to help.  It’s not enough for me to say ‘the government should be doing something about this.’

I’ve heard ‘homelessness is a life-style choice’.  Yeah, right, in the same way mental and physical health, abuse, relationship breakdown and addiction are life-style choices.

‘The answer is to get a job’.  Yes indeed, but the complications and challenges of many who are homeless are things I cannot even begin to understand, let alone resolve. Simple logic doesn’t work here.  It’s complicated.

What I do know, however, is that by bringing people together to support the work of homeless charities like Lifeshare we will be a community helping those who need our help.  Funding the work, focusing our community.

And, finally, my point is, would you buy a ticket for the Lifeshare 30th anniversary fundraising gig, featuring Henry Priestman (plus support), Thursday 11th June, 2015 at Lifeshare, Dantzic Street, Manchester  M4 4DN. Simply donate £12.50 per person and your name will be added to the gig list. Doors open at 7.30. Your donation will include food and soft drinks and a great evening of entertainment. We’ll be funding the folks on the front line of homelessness and we’ll be a little more aware of the charity that is Lifeshare.  The Co-Operative choir will perform too.  There are only 80 tickets available.

HenryPriestmanHenry Priestman, formerly of The Christians (yes, I did some strings arrangements for them) has re-invented himself as an acoustic artist, with 2 acclaimed albums, regularly heard on Radio 2.

Find out more about Henry Priestman at www.henrypriestman.com and https://www.facebook.com/henrypriestman

You can contact me, Pete Whitfield, on 07958 708661. Or info[at]realstrings[dot]com

Broken Chords

Broken ChordsString instruments can do all sorts of quirky things, like rolling broken chords. I’ve turned this technique into a loops pack.

These are 3 and 4 notes chords bowed across the strings, up and down, creating a distinctive rolling texture.  There are 94 chord patterns, recorded across 4 bars, at 100 and 120 bpm.  The loops cover major, minor and open 5th chords, and unusual patterns like augmented, diminished and sus chords.

brokenchords

The pack also includes sustained notes with rising and falling dynamics and a Kontakt instrument.

Here’s a look inside.

And a demo featuring the loops.

2014

I still love my job.

Here’s my best of 2014 effort

But more importantly, Merry Christmas to you.  I wish you find peace and love in your life.