Collaborating Composers & Poets

The team at Historyworks led by Helen Weinstein has worked with volunteers from local history groups and a range of researchers in the university to find fascinating and quirky stories along the route of the Tour de France, to inspire the composers and poets to write pieces based on original sources from Cambridge's past.

Poets and composers are writing biog pages as they create their pieces, so the information on these pages will grow over the coming weeks in May and June as they write and record their new compositions.  It is a process of "match-making" artists with the stories, and then as the pieces are created to be pinned at locations in Cambridge, the discussions take place with participating choirs.  Those commissioned are a mixture of artists with a strong track record in community choir work and those with a keen affiliation with Cambridge: either composing for Cambridge choirs or inspired by Cambridge's history to write pieces in words or music.

There will be materials updated over the next few weeks from the following artists who are commissioned to write pieces for Cycle of Songs.  These will be by Michael Berkeley, Kirsty Martin, Rowena Whitehead, Inja Maker, Hollie McNish, Karen Wimhurst, Peter Gregson, and Alex Cook with Hannah Brock.

  • Alex Cook, Composer and Performer

    "Being a part of the Cycle of Songs project has given me an opportunity to write a piece involving a large chorus: something that I've not done before.  It's perhaps appropriate that the subject of the poem my piece is inspired by is leaving Cambridge - as this is something I also seem unable to do: I was born here and am currently studying Music at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge...

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  • Andrea Cockerton, Composer

    "Anthemic, quirky, quick to learn, and historical." That was (in a nutshell) the brief for my involvement with the Cycle of Songs, and a great one at that - challenging, broad and allowing lots of musical freedom.  Having lived and worked in Cambridge for over 20 years, it’s great to be able to contribute musically to the life of the city at a point where it welcomes cyclists, fans, families and media for one fantastic and thrilling event, and where the music has a chance to play on through the app that’s being created as part of it all...

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  • Dave Cohen, Writer and Comedian

    Writing the song lyrics for ‘Horrible Histories’ has become one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve done. I’ve learned so much about history, and been introduced to people and projects I would never have come across in my narrow world of comedy. I was delighted to be asked to write for the Cycle of Songs project, and to come up with the round and the rap for the Thomas Hobson story. The rap was fun and I hope it brings the tale to life, but for me telling the full story of ‘Hobson’s Choice’ in a round, using only a dozen words or so, was the greatest challenge. I’m looking forward to hearing them live!...

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  • Hannah Brock, Musician

    I was excited to be invited by Professor Helen Weinstein to participate in the Cycle of Songs project for the Tour de France this year. For the past four years, I have been part of an organisation called Aldeburgh Young Musicians - an incubator for musical talent in the East of England - where I met the talented young composer Alex Cook. It was really wonderful to work with him again on this new project as he left AYM last year. Alex was one of the first composers to compose music for me. Others have shied away because I play quite an unusual instrument - the Chinese harp (a Gu Zheng) - with a very unusual notation; numbers instead of notes!...

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  • Hollie McNish, Poet & Lyricist

    I was approached by Cycle of Songs Producer, Helen Weinstein, about collaborating on the lyrics for the song called "Why We Ride". This developed from my work running a youth project about cycling, skating and skateboarding in Cambridge. The project took a group of young people to explain what they love about cycling and wheeling in general, what hinders them from doing this more and why they would encourage others to do this. I worked with rapper Inja to enable us to turn their experiences into a poem, working with the young people to pick out the most important phrases and ideas and really understand what they wanted to say. We wrote these down and from there constructed a poem. This was then recorded and a film of the young people made, directed by Inja and Skuff, two local artists...

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  • Inja, Rapper and Poet

    "I’m really excited about being involved with Cycle of Songs as I love the idea of bringing this history to life, a history which I am part of. I am looking forward to sharing this history not only through my own medium of rap, but with the choral melodies and background production, which I feel will add intrigue and drama to the piece. I am excited to make this history more accessible to others...

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  • Karen Wimhurst, Composer

    "Hooray for Hobson has been a fun romp in partnership with Dave Cohen. Dave’s concise and humorous poem arrived fully formed and ready to be set to music. With the vision of 200 children having a good time I’ve set out with introductory tongue clicks calling up the horses in Hobson’s stable! The piece has simple harmonies to try out as well as a climatic round at the end along with a bit of shouting as people fall off their bikes at Hobson’s conduit in Trumpington Street. It’s a pleasure to be in Cambridge again working with choral leaders Anna Louise Lawrence, Rowena Whitehead and historian Helen Weinstein...

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  • Kirsty Martin, Composer

    "I am delighted to be composing music for the Cycle of Songs - i've been discussing the historical sources with Helen Weinstein - and I'm commissioned to write a piece with Rowena Whitehead to celebrate the place names of Cambridge on the theme of riding bicycles round Cambridge. Also, I will be composing a piece for the Cambridge Choir called 'Women of Note' to record for the Cycle of Songs, which will be telling the History of Women to celebrate the ‘Unsung’ Women of Cambridge!...

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  • Michael Berkeley, Composer

    My composition for Cycle of Songs is called "Build a House" and will be performed for this recording by King's College Choristers and i've scored the work to be accompanied by Primary School voices. I always enjoy finding new ways to make music and particularly with young singers. I have created a piece that will work in various contexts and with various forces. I love working at King's - great architecture and wonderful musicians...

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  • Michael Rosen, Poet

    "As you can hear, I've written the poem pretending to be the lions. Perhaps they are talking 'in chorus' - all four of them talking together. Poems and songs are very good for letting you into the minds of people. Plays, musicals and operas do it as soliloquies, arias and solos. Poems and songs are sometimes in effect soliloquies, arias and solos without all the drama around them!

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  • Peter Gregson, Composer

    "When I was approached by the team at Cycle of Songs and asked if I’d like to write a choral piece set in Cambridge to celebrate the Tour de France, I jumped at the opportunity - I was a treble as a boy and still love singing, but haven’t yet written a proper piece for voices! When I  found out more about the concept of setting each piece around a uniquely Cambridge-y story, and reading some of the ideas and options, it all started to feel like a terrific jigsaw puzzle I desperately wanted to complete!...

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  • Rowena Whitehead, Composer

    "I'm really thrilled to be involved in the Cycle of Songs project this year. It is an excellent opportunity to invite the people of Cambridge to sing, those who already sing in Choirs, but also to reach out to those who are not in a Choir and would like to join the Cycle of Songs Choir.  I'll be leading this special choir during June, when we'll meet on three consecutive Wednesday nights, which will be free and open to all - children and families welcome too! Also, I'll be co-creating one of the new Cycle of Song pieces with my colleague, Kirsty Martin, to compose an anthemic piece for all the Choirs to learn for the app recording and to sing together at the June and July public events. Working with singers across Cambridge is going to be a busy but very rewarding project....

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