Mike has previously been commissioned by the BBC and Manchester Literature Festival to write the epic “God Is A Manc”, by Manchester United and Nike to create “The Threads That Weave” and his celebrated eulogy to Tony Wilson called “Saint Anthony”, but this is the first time his poetry is being set to music.
He is understandably excited by the prospect “I’ve had so many artists offer to set my poetry to music but it’s never felt right before. The idea of working with a classical string quartet really appeals to me. With pop or rock I’ve always felt that instruments compete but with classical, the instruments seem to compliment and extend the words. I love Joe’s work and am buzzing to get started on this.”
Joe is now Professor of Music at Bath Spa University, but still has links back to his hometown. He worked with Elbow and The Halle Orchestra for two shows at the Bridgewater Hall in 2009 and went on a ten-date sold out tour with James, Orchestra Of The Swan and The Manchester Consort Choir in 2011, as well as orchestra collaborations with Tim Burgess of The Charlatans, Nero, Richard Hawley and Rae Morris, as well as being appointed Composer In Residence for this year’s Festival No 6 in September.
He’s equally excited by the prospect of working with Mike and the first piece they will tackle is “Saint Anthony”. Joe explains there’s a link behind this. “I studied under Steve Martland who was the only composer ever to be signed to Factory Records by Tony. The man had great taste. I hope I can do this justice”.
He continues “Mike’s work is instinctively musical. He uses his voice like an instrument, playing around with tempo, pitch and melody. I’ve got some thoughts and am scoring some bits out, but I think this is going to be an organic creative process where we try things out in the rehearsal room and build on ideas together. I want it to be complimentary to and a natural extension of Mike”.
The project has already gained one celebrated supporter, legendary Salford poet, John Cooper Clarke who is such a fan of Mike’s work that he asked him to his support on tours of the UK, a relationship that has lasted over two years and which saw them perform to over 40,000 people last year, proving modern poetry is alive and well. He’s enthusiastic about the prospect of the two collaborating “I love Mike’s poetry. I can’t wait to hear the results of this partnership. And I can’t wait to play it on my BBC 6 Music show”.
Plans are already afoot for the format of the collaboration. Mike explains “I’d love to develop a thirty minute set with Joe and tour this as a support act with bands, reaching new audiences and people who haven’t been exposed modern poetry.”
As well as looking through Mike’s back catalogue of poems and writing new material Mike and Joe also have plans to embark on some charity initiatives together and they share a common motivation to do this. Mike explains “This part is a personal journey for both of us. I lost my mam to cancer in April and Joe lost his mum to Alzheimers 4 years ago. We want to do something to help raise awareness. Poetry & music are the best way we know how”.
Joe adds to this “Mike’s words drive the message home in a way that no charity advert can achieve. He sent me “Today”, a poem about depression, and it was an instant no‐brainer that I would work on it. It’s a remarkable piece of writing that belongs on Channel 4 in one of those 3 minute wonder thought-provoker slots”.
The pair are hoping to raise funding to make videos to accompany the poems, and put them out as virals on you tube, getting the relevant charities and their celebrity patrons to promote and share. Mike adds: “And of course I know the great Manchester public will get behind it too”.
All words by David Brown. You can see more of David’s work on Louder Than War here
Mike Garry photograph by Nigel Maitland, Joe Duddell photograph by Pantling Studio.