Gifts of Light
***NEW LIVE ALBUM***
“The words, music and art produce a deep and emotional connection with the natural world which gets straight to the heart.” Fiona McWilliams Executive Director of Development at The Natural History Museum
“There is a rare, dear beauty to these songs, born of friendships and collaboration renewed after a time of deprivation, this music echoes with both joy and sorrow.” Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
Spell Songs is a musical evolution of both The Lost Words & The Lost Spells books by acclaimed author Robert Macfarlane and award-winning illustrator Jackie Morris; creating a listening experience that intersects music, literature, language and art, as a call to reawaken our love of the wild.
The Spell Songs ensemble features the multifaceted talents and collaborative genius of Karine Polwart, Julie Fowlis, Seckou Keita, Kris Drever, Rachel Newton, Beth Porter and Jim Molyneux — all renowned musicians in their own right. Together, their music blends a diverse array of sounds from instruments like the kora, electroharp, cello, Indian harmonium and more, which are gorgeously layered with musical and linguistic influences spanning from Orkney to Senegal.
Gifts of Light is the new album from Spell Songs, a live record produced during the Spell Songs 2022 Winter tour at Birmingham Symphony Hall and within the Hintze Hall of the Natural History Museum in 2021.
“It’s not easy to paint with an audience. Learning the shape of an otter is like learning music. Repetition and looking, looking and learning, as the words and the shape of the otter fit together with the rhythm of the music, and it seems as if something magical is happening”
This is a quote from the Lost Words artist Jackie Morris, who becomes the honorary eighth member of the Spell Songs band when they tour. In contrast to the peace of her coastal studio, Jackie finds herself up on the stages of some of the UK’s finest concert halls. Painting amidst the seven remarkable musicians that make up the Spell Songs band, Jackie becomes a fellow performer - conjuring creatures from paint and speaking their spells. On this special digital live album you’ll hear her speaking the Otter Spell surrounded by Otter music recorded live at the Birmingham Symphony Hall.
“One of the best live experiences I’ve ever seen…”
Chris Proctor, Head of Programming, Birmingham Town Hall and Symphony Hall
Music for the Gifts of Light album was also recorded at the Natural History Museum during a special livestreamed event, with a unique message of respect for nature at its core, which raised just over £105,000 for the museum’s ambitious Urban Nature Project. Spell Songs performed their poignant music, art and poetry beneath ‘Hope’, the magnificent blue whale skeleton that is currently suspended high up in the breath-taking space of the Hintze Hall.
“To hear Spell Songs’ music reverberating through the Natural History Museum was a moment of pure joy. It was a truly incredible experience”
Katy Payne, Head of Special Events at the Natural History Museum.
As well as the venues documented in Gifts of Light, the Spell Singers have performed to audiences across the UK from Folk by the Oak Festival (who commissioned Spell Songs), to Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, The Hay International Literary Festival and The Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC’s Lost Words Prom in 2019.
This long awaited live album captures the essence of the powerful charge that is created during Spell Songs live shows; demonstrated by the standing ovations and heart-warming mixture of tears, laughter, and smiles from the audience at each and every one of their concerts.
“… one of the most sublime evenings you will ever enjoy. The magic of these superstars onstage - the art, the music, the sheer, ravishing beauty of the language... one of the greatest concerts we've ever had at Hay. Long, rapturous standing ovation. People weeping for joy”Hay International Literary Festival
Our live shows are a golden opportunity to sing nature back to life!
The album is accompanied by video collages from the wonderful Marry Waterson, featuring beautifully designed ‘Gold Souls’ of Jackie Morris’ Lost Words artwork.
Gifts of Light is a digital only release on Hudson Records in partnership with Quercus Records. Pre-Order announce and first single Heartwood are released on 29.10.23 and Gifts of Light is available in full on 01.12.23, the album can be gifted via Bandcamp.
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Robert Macfarlane: Robert is a fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge and the author of bestselling and prize-winning books, including The Wild Places, The Old Ways, Holloway, Landmarks and Underland: A Deep Time Journey. His work has been translated into many languages and widely adapted for film, television and radio. The American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded him the E.M Forster Award for Literature 2017. Other awards include Guardian First Book Award, Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year, Scottish non-fiction book of the year, and twice shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize.
Jackie Morris: Winner of the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2019 –Jackie grew up in the Vale of Evesham and studied at the Hereford College of Arts and at Bath Academy. She has illustrated for the New Statesman, Independent and Guardian, collaborated with Ted Hughes, and has written and illustrated over 40 books, including beloved classics such as The Snow Leopard, The Ice Bear, Song of the Golden Hare, Tell me a Dragon, East of the Sun, West of the Moon and The Wild Swans.
Karine Polwart: a multi-award-winning songwriter and musician, a theatre maker, storyteller, essayist, and published writer, Karine’s script for her award-winning show ‘Wind Resistance’ was picked by Robert Macfarlane for The Guardian’s 'Best Books of 2017'. Her success at the 2019 The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards means Karine is now a seven-times winner of these prestigious awards, including three times for Best Original Track.
Julie Fowlis: often singing in the Gaelic Tradition, Julie is known for her crystalline and intoxicating voice. Winner of BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer of the Year 2018, she will forever be recognised for singing the theme songs to ‘Brave’, Disney Pixar’s Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA winning animated film, and has collaborated with the likes of James Taylor, KT Tunstall, Graham Coxon (Blur), Nicola Benedetti and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Seckou Keita: BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2019 Musician of the Year, Seckou is an exceptional and charismatic musician and arguably the most influential and inspiring Kora player (22 stringed West African harp) of his generation. He has enjoyed a successful solo career, including the stunning ‘22 Strings’ released in 2015, but is also renowned for incredible collaborative work with diverse artists from Paul Weller to Youssou N’Dour, and Welsh harpist Catrin Finch with whom he has earned many awards and much critical acclaim for albums Clychau Dibon and SOAR.
Kris Drever: one of Scotland’s finest and most prolific songwriters and a member of award-winning folk trio Lau, Kris was awarded BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Folk Singer of the Year 2017, a year in which he also landed the award for Best Original Track for the title track to his self-written third album If Wishes Were Horses.
Rachel Newton: Rachel is a singer and harpist with a reputation for “haunting and compelling” (The Guardian) performances and was awarded BBC Radio 2 Folk Musician of the Year in 2017 and the Scots Trad Music Award Instrumentalist of the Year 2016. A skilled collaborator, Rachel is a founder member of The Shee, The Furrow Collective and Heal & Harrow.
Beth Porter: Beth is a well-known cellist on the UK folk and acoustic scene and a one half of The Bookshop Band, who write songs inspired by books that are frequently performed at bookshop gigs.
Jim Molyneux: Jim Molyneux is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer and producer hailing from Lancashire, and now based in East London. Widely in demand as a drummer, keys player and vocalist for live performances, radio, TV and theatre work, his session credits include performances with Lucy Rose, KittyMacfarlane, Bow Anderson and many others. Jim produces and releases his own songs under the moniker of EMBLM. Jim also made it to the highly acclaimed Grand Final of the BBC Young Musician of the Year, after triumphing in the percussion final.