Anyone who attended the performance by Platform 7 on the 5th July can’t have failed to notice that the band was accompanied by two wonderful guest musicians, cellist Hermione Jones and Joe Bentley on double-bass. Both hail from the Royal Academy of Music Open Academy and joined us for the creative project week.
Starting with your day job, can you tell us a little about your own musical background?
Music was always around the house, although neither of my parents are musicians, and it was something that brought everyone together. Parties would be a big sing-song with everyone contributing something, whether it be guitar, piano or kitchen pan. When I was 8 I started playing the cello and realised pretty early on it was what I wanted to do professionally. My brother played the violin and my early musical memories are lots of Irish jigs and reels and duets on the banjo and mandolin (which we dabbled with for a brief period). Later on I started playing in orchestras and quartets and before long started attending Junior Guildhall in London every Saturday. After that I was awarded a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music and have recently graduated. I feel incredibly lucky to have been given these amazing opportunities which have really shaped my growth as a classical musician.
I stumbled across outreach work a few years ago, through the Open Academy at the Royal Academy of Music, at a time when I was feeling quite disconnected from music and it helped me to find a purpose and a different way to share my passion. Since then my focus has been to gain as much experience, working with as many different people from as many different backgrounds, as possible in order to share, explore and create music with anyone, anywhere. It is very easy to underestimate the impact this type of work can have on people and their lives.
What were your expectations for the project? Did you have any anxieties beforehand?
When I originally signed up for the project I had no idea what it was about. I wanted to gain experience and push myself and this seemed like a fantastic opportunity. Sara came into the Academy beforehand and showed myself and Joe some video footage from a previous Music in Prisons project and after that I was just incredibly excited and eager to get started!
Was the reality different?
It was better than I could have imagined. The whole vibe was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. The energy in the room was electric. There were so many strong and creative personalities. This could very easily have led to arguments but everyone was equal, valued, extremely driven and focussed from the very beginning.
Did anything surprise you during the project?
Yes, the sheer speed and effortlessness of the creative process. By the end of the first day it was already clear that this was a project like none other and that anything was possible. In other projects you can sometimes find yourself desperately trying to drag ideas out of people but that was never an issue here. If anything, there were too many ideas! Sara originally proposed 5 songs but this soon became 6. The speed at which the songs were conceived was staggering. Someone would start playing a riff or singing a melody fragment and within minutes there would be a drum beat, keyboard, guitar, clarinet and vocal harmonies being added. The singers would leave the room to work on lyrics while the band would keep repeating and tweaking the material and by the time the singers returned the song would already be in pretty good shape. Everything just seemed to slot into place.
It was incredibly inspiring and refreshing. Everyone had a huge amount of respect for one another and it was a very special environment to work in. I say “work”; it didn’t feel like it at all…it was great fun!
What was it like working with the MiP project team?
Brilliant! Sara, Charles and Nick were so down to earth and welcoming and made me feel really included and involved (as they do with everyone!) They are so passionate and really generous with everything they do. Nothing is done half-heartedly or seems like a chore.
Is there a particular highlight/standout memory from the week?
The most emotional moment for me was hearing Sharleen’s song for the first time. It was so beautiful, heartfelt and honest. As with the lyrics to all of the songs, it connected with something on a deeper level. It was emotionally raw, which was really touching and compelling to listen to. I found myself just sitting back in awe, not wanting to add anything…it was just so perfect on its own.
What do you think you’ll take away from the project?
Some amazing memories! It really was one of the best weeks. I met some truly inspirational and ridiculously creative individuals. It definitely confirmed that this is the line of work I want to pursue and never to underestimate what can be achieved.
Would you be interested in working on similar projects in the future?
Without a shadow of a doubt, I would jump at the chance to be involved with projects like this again.
Do you have a favourite song from the project?
That’s a really tough one! Each track is so different and they all have at least one moment that makes me think “Oh, this is my favourite.” Then we’ll play the next track and I’m back to square one again. They are all awesome.
Yes! I’ve been ranting and raving about the project since it started and cannot wait for people to see it’s been no exaggeration. It is staggering what has been achieved in 5 days and very difficult to explain in words, there are only so many ways of saying “it’s amazing”. Without witnessing it first-hand it is impossible to convey!
Anything else you’d like to say?
It has been a privilege and a joy to be a part of this project and I would like to urge anyone reading this to show their support by coming to one (or all!) of the performances by Platform 7.