Over the years I have collaborated with some very talented musicians and singers on my recordings. Two of these are cellist Tony Woollard and violinist Charlie Brown.
Tony is a recording artist in his own right, with a well regarded solo cello album to his name ('Cello Journey'). His YouTube channel is Tony Cello and features many superb performances; he adds new pieces quite regularly. Meanwhile, his official website can be found here.
Charlie has worked with a diverse range of artists including Damon Albarn, Tim Minchin, Caro Emerald and Scott Walker, and he records music for film and television. As if that wasn't enough, he has also been extensively involved in theatre productions for the past six years, often as band leader (25th anniversary tour of Les Miserables, Ghost, Spring Awakening, Lord Of The Rings).
Following their help with a dance project I was involved with in 2012 (see the 'collaborations' page for more details) we decided it would be great to record some more of my back catalogue in this piano trio format and do some live performances as and when our busy schedules would permit.
And so Cherry Mint Koala was born. The name is slightly ridiculous, of course, but it rolls off the tongue rather nicely. And if anyone asks, I'm telling them that they're our favourite flavours of ice-cream.
Following two hefty but fun recording sessions, we amassed an album's worth of material, and filmed the whole lot to boot. I'm putting these videos out on YouTube over the coming months and the album (entitled 'Beguiling Transmissions') will be made available for download later in the spring.
Beguiling Transmission No 1 is a piece entitled Let The Body Go. The original song is the only one of the sequence not previously released, though it will be the lead track of a digital EP I am releasing next month (as a regular Mark Northfield release). The song was written a few days after the death of my mother, Beryl Brown, in July 2013. It was meant as both a serene elegy and a celebration of life and love, and hopefully the lyrics of the sung version will bring some comfort to anyone trying to come to terms with such a loss.
Musically it is very lyrical, very straightforward (by my standards) and - I think - very beautiful. It really does feel like a piece that wrote itself in some ways, such was the strange intensity of the moment, sat with my old upright piano at the family home letting the memories wash over me. Every little detail seemed to fall into place without much effort, right down to the subtle harmonic shifts in the piano accompaniment.
Of all the pieces I've ever written, it's fair to say I'm particularly proud of this one.
Beguiling Transmission No 2 is a piece entitled Sleeping Beauty. It originally appeared on the 2008 album Ascendant, sung by Paul Cozens with 'fat lady' soprano backing by Bryony Lang. It was one of the album's time-themed numbers, dragging the fairytale image of the sleeping princess into contemplative and surreal territory, while slyly questioning our notions of progress.
The piece starts very gently with a series of plain arpeggios on the piano and then pizzicato strings, before becoming decidedly sumptuous where the 'chorus' kicks in. It doesn't actually incorporate the vocal melody, unlike some of the other Cherry Mint Koala arrangements, there being more than enough to capture the listener's ear as things stand.
Musically, it harks back to late 19th / early 20th century romanticism, with a respectful stylistic nod to the worlds of ballet and musical theatre.
This instrumental version of Sleeping Beauty first surfaced as part of the previously mentioned contemporary dance piece 'Elements', which can be found on the 'collaborations' page of this website. It appears at about the 4.40 mark.