HANNAH STONE: What is a 'Lied' and what is the Leeds Lieder?
Hannah Stone is the poet-convenor for the composers and poets' forum at the Leeds Lieder Festival.
Leeds Lieder was founded in 2004 by Jane Anthony in partnership with a group of individuals and Leeds College of Music, to promote the enjoyment, understanding, appreciation, composition and performance of art-song. Our own editor Barry Fentiman Hall is one of the poets selected for the project this year, so we wanted to find out a bit more about the Festival and poet Hannah.
Hannah studied an MA in Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity and won the award in the Yorkshire Poetry Prize category of the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition for 2014/5, and the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize 2016.
What is Leeds Lieder?
HS: Leeds Lieder festival is an annual event promoting Lieder (Lied = song for voice and piano, very big in the Romantic movement,) in all its guises, from performances by world class singers and accompanists to outreach education work involving over 1,000 school children, to come and sing events; and my particular ‘baby’, the composers and poets forum. The main part is the festival which happens over the last weekend in April and is hosted at the College of Music and its performance spaces, but concerts happen throughout the year at venues around Leeds. It’s headed up by Joseph Middleton, a pianist described as the heir to Gerald Moore, who I’m old enough to have remembered as the gold standard of accompanists in the mid-twentieth century.
How did you become involved?
HS: I was involved as a poet three years ago. It blew my socks off! The poets/composers forum brings together 13 poets and 13 students of composition from all over the UK’s universities and music conservatoires. We aim to push at the boundaries of the conventional Lied by producing songs of all types and styles. In November all participants are gathered to showcase their talent and interests and in an amazing cultural speed dating event over lunch, 13 couples are created. They go on to write a 3-minute song for voice and piano together, responding to the creativity of the person they have paired with.
Is it just done in Leeds or are there other versions?
HS: I’m not aware that this happens anywhere but Leeds, which is big on music with the Leeds Piano Festival and Opera North as other classical music events, not to mention a plethora of jazz, folk, pop music and other gigs happening all over the place every night of the week.
Will it be happening again next year?
HS: Yes! But we are dependent on funding like all arts events. Become a ‘friend’ and help secure its future!
What comes first? Words or music?
HS: Good question. When the poets and composers present their work in a 5-minute pitch they will show their ideas, passions and styles. Ideally the couples will react to this in a sort of scientific process (you can tell I didn’t do much chemistry at school). Once paired they have about three months to write their song together. Usually the words come first but they should be informed by having listened to the music of their composer collaborator rather than being a case of ‘here’s one I made earlier’. My role is to recruit the poets each year, which I do by word of mouth and Facebook postings. There is also a pop-up poetry event during the festival and this year some of my poets got in touch after that which made my job easier. I look for diversity in my collection of poets. All ages, genders, ethnicities, styles of writing etc welcome. You do have to show me you are passionate about collaborating in this way but you don’t necessarily need previous experience.
When you aren't wearing your “Poet-Convenor” hat what are you up to at the moment artistically?
HS: Collaborating with a composer! The premiere of my Penthos Requiem, written with local young composer Matthew Oglesby, took place in October as part of the city of Leeds’ commemoration of the end of the Great War. Matt and I are already working on a musical skit based on Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess and a longer opera based on Egyptian deities. I’ve just had a pamphlet of poems about the West Welsh coast accepted for publication in May next year and have a collaboration with another writer, Holding up Half The Sky, giving voice to women throughout history, coming out with Indigo Dreams in February. I’m also working on a collection of prose poetry.
When not writing or singing I teach literature and religious studies for the Open University and do some academic research and proofreading. I love my allotment where I grow most of my own fruit and veg and do as much hill walking in the Yorkshire Dales as I can fit in. My cats are pleased to see me on the odd occasions when I sit still.
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