Josie Moon

Poet, Musician and Educator

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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.

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Poetry, Music and Living

Illustrations from In Case of an Emergency by Sophie Helen Ashton  https://www.facebook.com/sophieashtoncustomart/

Sophie 5Sophie 3

Looking at my calendar for December my hair begins to stand up in fright and then when I look back at November I wonder how I got everything done that needed doing – but of course I did, because we just do.  November was a month and a half in terms of what I managed to do; not single-handedly of course, there are lots of people who deserve thanks, bottles of wine and much more besides.

I moved house in November, just over a week ago in fact. So far, so very good. Great place, loads of room and all boxes labelled in a sane way that I understand. They may not be unpacked for some time, we’ll see.

Last Thursday I finished the first phase of my ACE funded writing project with the launch of In Case of an Emergency, the anthology of writing from young people who either attend or have attended Franklin College and undertaken the now defunct Creative Writing A Level. There is a lot that I could say about the government’s decision to scrap the course and much has been said. It was a lumpen, brainless decision borne out of the ridiculous notion that education is about measuring and not much else. The anthology proves that real education is not something that can be measured. The learning, experience and production that went into the book is not something that can be weighed against a set of meaningless assessment objectives and performance indicators. The book is an expression of the souls and imagination of its young contributors.  And it is a thing of beauty.  It was very telling that amongst the audience for the launch on Thursday evening there was not one single measuring stick wielding individual present. Their absence was noted but not missed.

This Thursday (December 7th) is the second La Luna Poetry Cafe @ Riverhead Coffee.  This is an opportunity for writers and those interested in writing to come together, share work and talk about what it means and what interests them about it.  Last month we had a terrific afternoon and very diverse contributions.  Everyone is welcome, it’s free to come along and the coffee is great.

December is very much about music and singing and the Great Grimsby Community Choir has a full and busy schedule.  We are supporting community events and taking part in a very special Christmas concert at St Augustine’s on December 22nd.  The weekly joy of getting together at St Mark’s and singing our hearts out cannot be underestimated. We are a very welcoming choir and we embrace new members. Everyone is welcome to come along and join us; no auditions!

It’s a lovely December afternoon. I’m looking forward to singing at Grimsby Minster later as part of the choir for the Advent Carol Service and then to settling down to watch Casablanca with my very best human.  I love Advent, probably more than I love Christmas and I wish everyone a whole lot of love and peace.

 

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Fish Tales in Folkestone

 

Folkestone is quite a trek from Grimsby but I have become adept at sleeping in the back of the car or at being in a poet’s coma as my lengthy naps have been described. The Dartford Crossing is an event and I’m glad I was awake for it as the bridge is quite beautiful. The traffic isn’t and the roads are in a lamentable state – but I digress.

The welcome at Folkestone Jazz Club was warm indeed. The Tower Theatre is a beautiful space, a lovingly adapted chapel that is inviting and well designed for performances.  The octet found themselves up close and personal again after being some distance apart at Herts on Sunday.

The vibe was suitably windswept and sea-inspired as a storm was brewing in Folkestone when we took to the stage for what was a barnstorming performance from everyone.  Because the stage was small I sat to the side which gave me a new aural experience.  I’ve got used to sitting with Mark and hearing a lot of gorgeous, warm  brass solos from him and Neil with the visceral delight of Gilad cutting through. I’ve heard lots of drums and bass as well and so it was great to hear more of Alan, Dean and Pat this time.

After having my knees knock throughout the set last Sunday, I was pleased to feel enough nervous energy to power my performance but not so much that I feared I might fall over.  As the tour has progressed I’ve added more layers of storytelling to my introductions and have grown in confidence. I feel I know the poems so well now and really enjoy inhabiting them as I share them with the audience.

The standing ovation at the end brought tears to my eyes and yet again the lovely comments from audience members made my heart swell.

I am thrilled that we have more dates in November and yet more next summer. At the moment I feel I could do this forever and never grow tired of it. However, there are stories, poems and ideas bubbling away and we shall see what time brings.

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Tour Tales 2

Photo credit: Melody McClaren with thanks 

Back to life, back to reality, well until Thursday when we hit the road again and head for Folkestone for the last gig of part 2 of the grand Fish Tales Tour.

Grand indeed. We’ve had nothing  but warm welcomes and kind words and I want to say thank you to all the venues and promoters who have hosted the production; Dave at Swansea Jazzland, Steve at Leeds Jazz 7, Chris at Wakefield Jazz and Clark at Herts Jazz Festival.

Thank you also to the lovely audiences who have been so rapt and so attentive. It has been a wonderful experience for me to truly feel the impact of my words in the response of the audiences.

Many thanks to everyone who has bought the books and CD’s, that is true support and is hugely appreciated.

Finally thank you to all the lovely people who I’ve spoken to after gigs who have commented on how much the poetry moved and affected them, how much they enjoyed the show and my delivery.

It is such a great joy and such a lot of fun to perform with this stellar cast of jazz legends, all of whom play with energy, fizz and aplomb.  I have been dazzled by some of the solos and lost in the tunes as they weave and wander, telling the story through the voices of the instruments.

Fish Tales lives and breathes on the stage; it is a complex and beautiful work and I am immensely proud to have been part of its creation and to have the great good fortune to be bringing it to audiences across the country.

 

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On The Road

Out on tour, taking the route from the late summer flowers in the garden, all the way to Swansea through beautiful South Wales to a welcoming stage a spit from where Dylan Thomas lived.

Then long, bad roads with hold-ups and delays up to Leeds and a glorious gig with added bonus of old friends coming along to say hello after too many years to count.

Home for a brief hiatus and then off we go again to Wakefield and Welwyn this weekend.

More poetry is needed, I concur. It is only ever a good thing.

 

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New Adventures

The Poetry Cafe @ Riverhead Coffee

Following on from our enjoyable National Poetry Day events La Luna is very pleased to announce that in partnership with Riverhead Coffee we will be hosting a regular Poetry Cafe event for poets, writers and audiences to enjoy an afternoon of readings and conversation about writing.  The first Poetry Cafe will take place on Thursday 2nd November at Riverhead Coffee between 3.00 -5.00 pm and this first event is open to anyone to come along and read. We plan to run this event monthly and to have many poets and writers from our region joining us.

We were sorry to have to cancel the Poetry Tea today but even poets get poorly and we will reschedule this event as soon as we are able. 

Great Grimsby Community Choir GGCC

Following our very happy and successful move to St Mark’s church where we are settling in very nicely GGCC now has a packed autumn schedule of events and performances. We are thrilled to be singing this Sunday as part of The Fisherman’s Memorial Service at Grimsby Minster. The service starts at 2.00 pm and all are welcome to come along. We have some lovely songs to sing including Jo Townell’s arrangements of You Know You’re Home and Cold Winds Blow both by McCarthy and Moon and written specifically about the Grimsby fishing heritage.

Thanks to our friend Ian Pickles at The Peoples Magazine we have a lovely new logo.

Choir 01 (2)

For regular information about what GGCC are up to why not like our new Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/GGCommunitychoir/

 

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Great Grimsby Community Choir, Singing For Life

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The happy choir!

 

It’s a delight to announce the new beginning for the Great Grimsby Community Choir. We will be Singing for Life every Monday evening in our new base, St Mark’s Church, Laceby Road and we are already preparing for our first public performance of this exciting and busy term.

Our inclusive choir is open to anyone over the age of 14 regardless of singing ability or experience. We believe that every unique voice has a place in the choir and that everyone can develop their singing and gain enormous pleasure and satisfaction from the experience.  We love singing together and we are constantly adding to our repertoire and trying out new material.

We operate a flexible membership as we understand that people are busy and have many commitments in their lives. Our members come when they can and commit to what they can manage. The weekly fee is just £4 and we also run a raffle and refreshments to add to our resources.

Everyone is welcome to come along and join us and we hope to see lots of new faces this term alongside our fabulous regular members.

Best regards

Josie Moon

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Season of Mists

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I can smell autumn coming in and the damp mornings, busy garden spiders and darkening evenings all testify that the season is changing.

After a turbulent and painful summer here’s hoping that the autumn brings some peace, calm and gentleness for all souls on this great blue planet.

Among the things I am looking forward to is the return of the choir with a fresh start and an independent future which I am pleased to be guiding alongside the supremely talented Jo Townell.  The choir has become a central focal point of my life and weekly routine. It is a place of joy and light and sustains me as much as it sustains its members.

I am thrilled that the Fish Tale tour begins again in October with dates around the country. Being on the road with such consummate musicians and my great friend and jazz champion Gill Wilde is exciting and fun and I am chomping at the bit to get out there.

There are several beautiful, creative projects in the pipeline including two forthcoming La Luna publications and some poetry events and opportunities. I am always grateful that I have so many creative outlets. There have been some very dark days of late and the light that gets in always comes from places of creative energy.

Autumn is a good time to reflect and look for a bit of peace and quiet, if not externally then internally. The equinox on the 21st and the returning darkness open a space for that to happen and I will be taking advantage of this time for just that.  We all need that quiet and for the noise of life to abate.

Peace and kindness to all beings.

 

 

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Touring, Travelling and All That Jazz

 

Welsh sky

I had one of those lie-ins this morning. It’s not something I do much these days. I like being up and into the day but this morning I was dead to the world and when I did wake up I had no idea where I was, what day it was or who I was – well, that’s a small exaggeration but I like the power of three. Once I’d re-calibrated myself and found the coffee the world began to resettle and assemble itself in a manageable order. I tuned out the news, it’s all bad, and thought about the past few days, with no small sense of wonder.

At the weekend we went to Llandudno. Primarily this was for a gig with the marvellous Alan Barnes Octet.  The festival had a magical vibe to it. Quirky, welcoming and brim full of exciting and varied jazz, it was a treat for the ears. The beautiful setting, the sea, mountains and sky made it a treat for the soul. The gig itself was wonderful – it always is. The music gets more exciting the more I hear it and I seem to find new paths through the poems each time I perform them. Performing with the octet is exhilarating and I feel full immersion in the experience each time. There are particular phrases in the music that have a visceral effect on me and seem to reach into my words to draw out nuances and meanings that I didn’t know were there when I was writing.

LLandudno

Early evening sunshine in Llandudno

 

We returned home very briefly on Monday to repack the bag and then headed off to that London for the theatre; The Old Vic.

Girl From The North Country is a brand new play by Conor McPherson based around the music of Bob Dylan and set in the Great Depression in 1934.  I was nervous about it because I wanted to like it so badly and I knew reviews were mixed – I had only read one in advance which was positive and I put it out of my head so as to receive the production freshly. It’s been a while since I’ve been to the theatre and a long time since I’ve seen anything brand new. Loving Dylan as I do, I was praying that the music wouldn’t be cringe-worthy, belted out musical theatre renditions of the ‘greatest hits.’  I love musical theatre but have an aversion to jukebox musicals.

I was transported, taken out of the world for a few short hours. Rarely do I finish watching a show and want to see it again immediately but I could have sat through it again, and again, and again. It is delicate, beautiful, sad beyond words and utterly human. See it if you can.

Yesterday we got caught in the rain and didn’t care. We were both light and full of the treasures of the previous days. The best human suggested we wander and wonder without a plan. The downside of this was a light lunch that required a bank loan. The upside was stumbling into Tate Modern and finding Janet Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet sound installation. The best human had already experienced it in Liverpool and had wanted to share it with me and so finding this little gift from the universe was doubly wondrous as he had no idea it had moved to London.  Using Thomas Tallis’ Spem In Alium, the sound installation features 40 speakers, each one playing a separate voice from the forty strong choir. The experience of hearing it in a darkened room is eerie and intensely beautiful.

Holidays must end as you know sang Natalie Merchant in her beautiful song Verdi Cries. I always hear her singing that song in my head as I come home after time elsewhere. It’s in the back of my head now as I write. Homecoming is fine, it has to be. We got home to high winds and a feeling of madness in the air. Still, it’s never dull.