Josie Moon

Poet, Musician and Educator

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A Requiem

A Requiem, the poetry collection available now for £9 inc P&P. Email Josie Moon msjosiemoon@gmail.com

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A Requiem – A World Premiere

On Friday 15th February myself and the Alan Barnes Octet premiered our brand new collaboration, A Requiem, a brand new suite of music and poetry, commissioned by Grimsby Jazz Projects and supported with funding from Arts Council, England.

Having worked on the poems from the autumn of 2017 to a final tweak the day before the premiere, I was full of nervous excitement and anticipation – especially as I had not heard a note of the music and truly had no idea what to expect.

The beginning of rehearsals with our fabulous director Gill Wilde looking on

It was wonderful to be reunited with the full band again. I had been looking forward to seeing everyone again and have so many happy memories of outstanding gigs on our previous Fish Tales tour. This is truly an all-star band and each musician brings his own particular signature, which becomes apparent during the solo sections.

As we got underway with the rehearsal it was soon clear to me that the music was extraordinary. Full of twists and turns with complex rhythms and nuances; the music felt like a journey through time and through the story of war across a century that I was also telling with the poems. The music was full of drama and intrigue and I found it incredibly moving and intense.

Conversation during rehearsal

The rehearsal day was given an extra layer of excitement as Radio Humberside were broadcasting live from the Central Hall throughout the afternoon and several of us gave brief interviews in which we talked about the work and the project as a whole. Friends and colleagues also came in to give short interviews about the work they are doing in the cultural sector in the town and so the rehearsal had the feel of an event in its own right.

It was a long day and the work required considerable concentration from everyone. After only a short rest for tea, showtime approached and I really felt the nerves kick in. I now have a better understanding of my ‘gig-zone’ and my need to have some space to mentally and physically prepare for performance. It’s an odd place where in equal measure I do and do not want to perform, where nervous energy builds and I have to turn inwards in order to find the right mood for delivering outwards to an audience.

A backstage self portrait, in the ‘gig-zone’

Before I started writing A Requiem I never thought that war would be a subject I would want to work with. I spent a great deal of my undergraduate degree studying the world wars and the literature of war of the twentieth century. But it was not an area I ever wrote about in my own creative writing so when this process began I was taken aback by how I was gripped by the subject and how urgent it felt for me to write and to read and to go back to some of the literature that had so absorbed me when I was younger.

And it was not just the literature of war and the nature of conflict and its impact that gripped me, it was also the processes and rituals of commemoration and the artistic expressions of remembrance that I wanted to explore. I heard in my head the words of the Libera Me of the Latin mass for the dead;

Libera me, Domine, de morte æterna, in die illa tremenda
Quando cœli movendi sunt et terra
Dum veneris iudicare saeculum per ignem.

I couldn’t quieten the words, words I had sung over years of on-off membership of various choirs. I had the sense that the words were telling me something and I had an obligation to listen.

Using the structure of the Requiem mass for the dead gave me a clear starting point and an over-arching theme to work with. Alan and Pat liked the concept and so we all worked towards the production of words and music that would culminate in a work to both honour the dead and call for peace. I didn’t want to write a religious piece and worked carefully to ensure that my words would acknowledge all the dead of the century past regardless of creed, colour, gender or nationality and see every victim of war as first and foremost, human.

The work proved challenging to perform on Friday night. It is emotionally charged, powerful and in places bleak and dark. The subject matter is solemn and serious and I felt that solemnity around me as I delivered my words amidst powerful, strong and stirring music. However, one of the central motifs of the work is light, lux aeterna. The light always returns, however dark it has been.

Light always returns after darkness

I am now looking forward to recording the work and publishing the poems. I am also excited about touring A Requiem later this year and taking it to audiences across the country.

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A Requiem

I am delighted to announce that A Requiem will premiere at Grimsby Central Hall on Friday 15th February at 7.30 pm. Tickets are now available from the box office, call 01472 355025 to reserve in advance at £13.

A Requiem is a collaboration between Alan Barnes, Pat McCarthy and myself and is work that examines the impact of a century of warfare across the world and which asks questions about the possibility of peace. The idea germinated on a dismal late autumn evening in 2017 when I was thinking about what remembrance means and what progress we have actually made across a century in terms of understanding and attempting to stop war.

With a great deal of hard work, commitment and energy, the indomitable Gill Wilde and I put together an Arts Council application to bring the work to life. Happily our bid was successful. Not only has this new work been commissioned, it will be recorded on CD and the poems will be published in a new collection. Venues across the UK have booked A Requiem and it will be seen by a national audience. Dale Mackie has produced the artwork for the project and internationally renowned artists will perform together to create a moving, memorable and ultimately uplifting tribute honouring all who have died in conflict.

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Winter Comes

Like the autumn, the winter arrived more or less overnight. We felt it blow in off the North Sea and felt the chill settle on us.  The autumn light has been very beautiful and our winter sky here on the east coast never fails to lift the spirit, even as darkness intensifies.

A highlight of the winter so far was the jazz and poetry gig with Dave Green and Pat McCarthy, just a couple of short weeks ago – time really has flown.  Pat and I are doing a lot of work on our set and it’s coming together with great fluency and playing well with audiences.

The Concert for Commemoration was a night to remember as well, with the choir really giving their all and with beautiful accompaniment from all of the musicians. It was a special night, long to be remembered.

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Photo 1

It has once again been a time of change, with much of the past now settled and in its place and the future looking exciting and full of challenges.  With Pat and the La Luna team we are preparing for a busy spring in NE Lincs schools. Most exciting though is the forthcoming jazz and poetry Requiem, a collaboration between me, Pat and Alan Barnes with the support of Arts Council England and overseen by Gill Wilde.  There will be more to report on that shortly.

It’s been a tense time but the ships have all come safely into port and I am immensely grateful for all the kindness and support I have received and for the affirmation of my work, which continues to be a source of joy to me.

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McCarthy and Moon Autumn Tour

McCarthy and Moon J and P

We are pleased to announce our Autumn Tour for 2018 with a series of dates in North East Lincolnshire.

Friday 14th September 

7.30 pm at The Globe in Cleethorpes.  This lovely new coffee and book shop is an intimate venue with very welcoming hosts.  Entry is free. Signed copies of Poems from the Swamp will be available to purchase At £7.50

Poems from the Swamp Josie Moon

Poems from the Swamp

Saturday 29th September

7.30 pm, The Steel Rooms, Brigg

£5.00

Myths of  Birds and Water: An evening of Poetry and Jazz featuring a spoken word performance from Steve Meek.

The theme of the evening is birds and water and the myths that surround both.

Saturday 27th October 

7.30 pm, The Steel Rooms, Brigg

£5.00

An evening of Poetry and Jazz featuring a spoken word performance from Steve Meek. With special guests David Power and Ken Marley.

Thursday 1st November 

7.30 pm, The Albert Room Cleethorpes Library

£5.00 – Tickets available from Cleethorpes Library.

An evening of Poetry and Music featuring very special guest, internationally renowned bass player, Dave Green.

Dave Green

Internationally renowned bass player, Dave Green

 

 

 

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Words and Pictures Autumn Season 2018

Words and Pictures Logo

Here is the link to our Autumn Brochure listing all our events for Autumn 2018.  The programme is packed full of poetry, workshops, fine art. talks and music and is the result of a collaboration between La Luna, Lincs Inspire, Riverhead Coffee and others.  There are paper copies available of the brochure and these can be found in libraries and other public spaces locally.

WP-Programme-2018-web 

 

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Christmas Songs in August

Best Words Logo

The Best Words project is now well underway and the Words and Pictures autumn season brochure is almost ready to be released.  It’s packed full of poets and events programmed for several venues across the region.  The web version will be posted here on the website shortly.  Here’s a quick overview of what is happening:

Emerging Voices

One strand of best words is the Emerging Voices writing project for young writers aged 18-25.  We have established our group and their autumn schedule is already looking busy with a series of workshops and events including visits from poets working on the national scene.  Their first meeting was inspiring for all of us and we’re looking forward to a fine body of new work from them.

Poetry Cafe

Poet and teacher Carolyn Doyley takes the helm of the Poetry Cafe in September when it reconvenes on the 3rd Thursday of the month at Riverhead Coffee.  There will be a mixture of workshops, read-arounds and poetry suppers through the autumn with some very special guests.

Carolyn Doyley

Carolyn takes the helm of the Poetry Cafe

Great Grimsby Community Choir

Pat McCarthy and I have been writing music over the hottest summer I can remember – thankfully it’s cool and rainy today – music for centenary of the end of the First World War, and music for Christmas.  It’s not easy to envisage the frozen landscape of midwinter, the short days and darkness when you feel like a basking lizard but we’ve done our best and Great Grimsby Community Choir will be rehearsing their new music from September.

McCarthy and Moon

We have three gigs booked for the autumn so far and we are looking to add dates.  We are setting some of the poems from Poems from the Swamp and working on other material.  We are particularly delighted that the incredible Dave Green is joining us in November at the Albert Room for some great improvisation and the warmest bass sound you can imagine.

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Fish Tales @ The BBC

Happy New Year to everyone. Here’s the link to the broadcast of Fish Tales from the Herts Jazz Festival.  It’s available until about 22nd January on the BBC iPlayer.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09k6btg

Here’s a review from Jazz Rag of the performance at the festival:

One programmed concert of new music at many a festival these days is the latest suite by Alan Barnes, usually for an all-star octet. This year it’s Fish Tales, music and poems based on the Grimsby fishing industry. I often wonder how precisely thematically based jazz suites relate to their subject matter, but in this case the correspondence between the music and Josie Moon’s words is pretty close, from the rowdy fun of Three Day Millionaires to the street parade sounds of Homecoming, even Dave Green’s bubbling bass solo for The Drowning Man. Moon’s poetry covers the domestic, the documentary and the supernatural, her explanations are clear and her readings dramatic. Alan Barnes’ writing makes particular use of the versatility of his threeman reed section (some lovely writing for two clarinets and bass clarinet) and, with top-class soloists throughout the band, Mark Nightingale and Robert Fowler made a particularly strong impression.

Ron Simpson

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Fish Tales and Fairy Dust

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at La Luna HQ and in the world at large. The most unexpected and delightful present I think I’ve ever had is the fact that Fish Tales will be broadcast on Radio 3 on CHRISTMAS DAY at 11.00 pm on the lovely Soweto Kinch’s Jazz Now programme. The recording was made at Herts Jazz Festival on a nice October afternoon. I was so glad I was wearing a long, full skirt because my legs shook all the way through the performance  – you try not to think about being recorded while you’re being recorded but your unconscious likes to remind you and I was nervous.

Radio Times

I know I’ve said it often this year but Fish Tales has been the most extraordinary creative experience, right from the start, from the first inkling of the first poem to the last gig at Shrewsbury. It has been sprinkled with fairy dust throughout.  These jazz musicians are spectacular talents, all of them with their ability to dazzle with improvised solos and to come back to a complex score full of subtlety and nuance.  Audiences, venues, promoters have all been full of welcome and bon homie and every gig has had its own flavour and its own moments of delight.

I do have books available and if anyone would like one, just drop me a line. As it’s Christmas I’ll do two plus P&P for £8 I don’t have many left so get them while they last!

To entice you, here’s a poem from the collection:

The Fisherman and the Seal Woman

He saw her dive off the port side,

the flash of her sea-green eyes

had him mesmerised.

 

She watched him from the deep,

waited for him to sleep,

blew him dream kisses.

 

She swam to the fjord,

shed her skin,

shivered, human, on the ice,

watched his ship blow in.

 

She had him in a heartbeat

when he looked into her eyes,

smelt the winding serpent of her hair,

knew he could not live without her.

 

The fisherman took her for wife.

hand-fasted they jumped the fire,

kissed under the dancing sky.

 

He gave up the sea for a hearth

and the green Norwegian slopes,

his heart caught fast in her net.

 

She paced the shore in longing,

yearning for more than the cabin door,

the mending of nets,

tending the babes that came each year.

 

She heard her sisters’ call

felt the sharp pull,

until the seventh spring,

no longer able to keep it in

she retraced her steps

found her skin

slipped easily into the water

leaving her little sons and daughters

wide-eyed, wondering

at the transformation of their seal mother.

 

He sails the fjords and open seas

wild-eyed, more sad than mad

that he didn’t see

that she was never meant to be.

She was a dream of a girl

from a frost-bitten night

under a red sky in which

there was no delight.

He hears her in the cries of the seals,

sees her hair in the winding eels

that slip and slide along the side

of the boat where he fishes and fishes

and hopes and yearns,

prays to all the Gods, that she will return.

 

He knows in his soul that it cannot be

that his seal woman is at one with the sea,

free forever, gone for good,

called back by the salt that ran in her blood.

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Spirit

I was going to call this blog post Spirit of Jazz in recognition of the fantastic CD The Spirit of Trane by Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble because the band had me and the rest of the audience in rapture last night at Grimsby Jazz’s final gig of 2017. But actually it’s spirit I want to write about because it has been a week of feeling spirit in so many lovely ways and although last night was the apex there have been some fantastic moments of community and togetherness that I want to try to capture.

When we talk about spirit what do we mean?  I think it’s a word that is myriad in its meaning and probably context specific.  There was a spirit in the room last Friday when the community choir performed at Cambridge Court.  There was a sense of shared purpose and fellowship which I think is captured in these pictures.

I know I talk a lot about the power and the value of singing together but it comes home when we go out into the community and perform.  The choir’s spirit is immense; big-hearted, generous and welcoming. Monday evenings at St Mark’s should be available on prescription.

Last night’s gig at Grimsby Jazz was just spectacular.  Gilad Atzmon is a genius and I would never use that term glibly. When Gilad plays Euterpe enters and something transcendent happens.  The Orient House Ensemble is a stunning band. Each musician plays from the soul and inhabits the music so completely. It was an immeasurable joy to be lost in it.  It was a poignant night as well  because it was Gill Wilde’s swansong gig. But what a finish. My best human remarked that it was one of the best gigs he’d ever been to and I have to concur.

Three best humans

I woke up thinking about jazz this morning and its glorious defiance as a musical genre. It is so free and so revolutionary and it challenges you as a listener to really engage.  I started going to the jazz in Grimsby years ago because I wanted to be excited by music and musicianship. I’ve had such an education and such revelations and have immersed myself in jazz as a writer and performer. I want more of it all the time.

Back to the ordinary world today and the second Riverhead Coffee Poetry Cafe. What a rich afternoon.  The participants bring so much, not just writing but themselves. It’s evolving as a place to consider the nature of ourselves not just as writers but as beings, existing in a time and a place.  Today there was such a wealth of shared narratives and everyone left with an uplift.

 

And spirit is the thing that unites this experience, the spirit of people coming together to do what they do; to talk, make art, share ideas, perform, give.  It’s something spectacularly human and wonderful and the stuff of living.  Long may it happen.