31 October, 2008

Our exciting new book . . . now in the main part of the website

For various reasons, it was not possible, until recently, for us to put details of this book on to our website along with all our other books. We are happy to say that it is now here, where the movie is much more convincing! Enquiries or ordering can be done through the website in the usual way.

A Christmas Sequence

chosen by Benjamin Britten from the Chester Miracle Cycle
with an Introduction by Dr Andrew Plant
images by Angela Lemaire

Fifty years ago Benjamin Britten wrote Noye’s Fludde – an opera-for-all telling the story of Noah’s Ark with the main characters taken by adult opera singers alongside children playing animals, involving instrumentalists at all levels of ability and including hymns for all present to join in with. It was a tremendously popular work and is still widely performed. In 1974 the head of Pimlico School in London, Kathleen Mitchell, asked Britten to write another such opera for performance at the school. The composer went to the same source, the Chester Miracle Cycle and selected scenes for a Christmas Sequence which would again afford opportunities for collaboration between professional musicians and schoolchildren. Sadly, the second draft of this libretto has remained only as a typescript in the Britten-Pears Library because the composer died before any music had been written.
Dr Andrew Plant, until recently Curator of the Library, warmed to our idea of the work coming to life as a book filled with images as evocative as the music would have been. He writes an introduction to establish the story and then Angela Lemaire has cut magnificent woodblocks which capture a splendid sense of the medieval play, its presentation by contemporary children and a mystical rendering of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.
The scenes included involve the Salutation – which introduce Gabriel, Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and midwives who arrive for the birth; The Shepherds; the Magi; Herod and the Innocents and the knights who carry out the orders to kill. The language is wonderfully down to earth and designed to entertain in the market places of medieval Chester and the surrounding towns and retains that power. The woodcuts dance through every page – 76 blocks were cut and printed in midnight black (which is slightly blue) weaving between the blocks of text, printed in seville black (slightly orange). The binding was inspired by the colours of medieval stained glass, green images on blue for the covers with a black leather spine as though leading on the window. A deep red cloth on the slipcase surrounds a large label printed on golden yellow paper.

380x290mm. 80pp. The paper is VĂ©lin Arches, the type is Truesdell. 76 woodcut images printed from the wood. Cased binding with black leather spine and boards covered in blue paper printed with woodcut images front and back in green. Slipcase covered in red cloth with a large label on yellow paper. ISBN-13: 978-0-907664-80-2 Main Edition limited to 195 copies, numbered and signed by the artist : £275

As with some of her other books with The Old Stile Press, Angela has hand-coloured ten copies for a special edition. This version is bound as the main edition but housed in a lined, drop-back box.
Special edition I-X, numbered & signed by the artist : £950

22 October, 2008

All power to the Carrying trade!

Especially if one lives in rural isolation, the Carrier supplies an incredibly valuable service. A few days ago one such van came to our door, at our request, and saw to it that a large parcel was delivered to a hotel in Edinburgh in double quick time. Some days later the same parcel was returned to us with the contents somewhat modified. We did not need to leave the house!

Staying in the Edinburgh hotel was Michael Onken, well-known already to readers of this blog as the artist whose relief blocks I have been printing rather manically of late to complete The Girl from the Sea, the play for voices by the late George Mackay Brown.

Michael had taken the opportunity to time one of his regular escapes from the United States to Orkney with our need for him to sign the edition and also the proof pulls of four of the engravings in the book which will be found alongside the book in the TEN copies of the Special Edition.

The final treasures in the parcel were also destined for the Special copies, being ten original paintings by the artist, in watercolour on handmade paper, each loosely based on a scene from the play or on one of the engravings in the book. These are really lovely things and I cannot resist posting three of them here . . . at random, which is how they will be received by their eventual owners, those who obtain one of the Special ten copies.

The photograph at the head of this post shows Michael at the most recent exhibition of his paintings in America.

14 October, 2008

Liebestod in Pembrokeshire

I've been playing around again . . . at what is becoming one of my favourite forms of relaxation, setting a video of some aspect of the natural world against one of my favourite pieces of music. Although I have chopped it around a bit for the purpose of this film, the 'raw material' started life as a single take of about 29 minutes, which was a bit tiring but remarkable to do.

I am aware that I am 'borrowing' this music without permission so, if I offend copyright in so doing, please let me know and I will take it down.

This actual recording, in the form of a little 45 rpm disc, was known by certain of my friends at University as Nicolas's Catharsis Music! It was used often, sometimes more than once a day, when student angst was upon me and it often did me much good. I think that the water would have helped!

Sorry! This went up but was such a feeble shadow of what it should have been, that I have taken it down . . . pending the time when I learn how to do it properly!

05 October, 2008

The Girl from the Sea

I spent this morning preparing and imposing three blocks, proofing and adjusting for evenness of printing surface, depth of ink and so on and, finally, printing a sheet from the actual edition. This is the fifth time that this sheet has gone through the press so I was keen that everything should go well.

My usual behaviour after reaching this point is simply to put a nice opera on the CD player and bash on with printing the whole edition. On this occasion I was so thrilled I thought I must get it on the Blog. Here, therefore, is the title spread, the spread with the Singer's Prologue to the play and a close-up of one of the 'selkie' blocks that take up pages before and after the play itself. On each occasion the image is by Michael Onken - soon to make a short trip from the US to his beloved Orkney, not least so that he can sign the copies in the UK!

I have a lot still to do but now the excitement mounts to see the finished book.

Just for the moment, though, I must haul myself down from this high and settle down to print the remaining 200+ sheets of this particular printing!