Reality Checkpoint - Parker's Piece

Composer: Andrea Cockerton

Performed by: The Dowsing Sound Collective

Location: This piece and its historical context are closely linked with Parker's Piece, Cambridge.

This audio file is a recording & edit by Historyworks:


We’d like to sing to you a piece of history
About people like you, and people like me
To take you way back to when this green got named.
He was a cook, see, at Trinity he…
Leased this fine field of green
Where bowlers pitch and spin
As we all pass by and watch or join a game.
The cook named Edward, he, went down in history
For Parker was his name and legacy
And the land on which we stand was handed to the common man
A lot like you and me...
Parker’s Piece.

Jump through a few years and we find Mr Bond
Not the one you’re thinking of; this one had less aplomb -
He’d planned a party, but it got left quite late.
And what a deadline – the Coronation
They were in quite a fix, but people wanted it
And so they moved heaven and earth to find a way (in thirteen days).
Fed fifteen thousand here, many more drew near
Eighteen thirty eight, the year, with food, games, fireworks, beer
Such a party never seen, right here on our city green
For people like you and me….
Par-ker’s Piece (space)- puddings
Piece (place) - pickles
Piece (mates)
Par-ker’s Piece (space)- mustard
Piece (place) - barrels
Piece (mates)
Par-ker’s Piece

Now on to Jack and the Hobbs' Pavilion

Where more than cricket came to fruition
The FA football rules were created in our midst.
Too many fights had ensued upon this land
The time had come to have a consistent hand
Applied to bring some consensus to the game.

Meanwhile Jack quietly worked hard on his batting technique
And scored his first ton here, the sound of willow clear
And soon the tents were gone, to give us Hobbs' Pavilion
For people like me and you to play…
…on Par-ker’s Piece

From the seventeenth century up to the present day
This great big stretch of green has seen all ages play
And drawn the city together in one place.
From first flights landing here to rustic sports & beer
From pounds of meat and snuff
To pyrotechnic stuff
People like us created memories in this space.
And now for you and me, this place is also ours to be
We can bring our gear and bikes and watch the world go by
Balls and people everywhere, drawn to the space and air
People like you and me…
…on Par-ker’s Piece (space)- sticky
Piece (place) - wicket
Piece (mates)
Par-ker’s Piece (space)- bolting
Piece (place) - biscuit
Piece (mates)
Par-ker’s Piece (space)- throw in
Piece (place) - tackle
Piece (mates)
Par-ker’s Piece (space)- dipping
Piece (place) - treacle
Piece (mates)
Par-ker’s Piece

Check your reality
Kick off your history
This is the place to be (smashed for 6)

©Andrea Cockerton 2014

Historical Context:

On 16th December 1587 Edward Parker, a college cook, leased the area that has come to be known as Parker’s Piece. In 1613 it was passed onto the Mayor, Bailiffs, and Burgesses of Cambridge as part of an exchange with Trinity College. Then, in 1831, the university requested permission to create a cricket pitch. This was granted but on the condition that it had to be for the use of the public as well as the university. Parker’s Piece has since become one of Cambridge’s most fondly used areas of public land, nurturing great sporting talent, accommodating public celebrations and long-held traditions.  A selection of these games and leisure pursuits are named in the song called “Reality Checkpoint” which is the poignant name for the lamp at the centre of Parker’s Piece as it importantly provides a meeting point between town and gown, both in the past and the present.

As a schoolboy in the late nineteenth century, the famous cricketer Jack Hobbs would practice at Parker’s Piece. Hobbs described it as “probably the finest and most famous cricket ground in the world; it is certainly one of the best.” Cricket was, at that time, particularly popular, with between thirty and forty clubs keeping nets on Parker’s Piece. In 1930 a pavilion was built and named after the early master of English cricket who’d began his career there: Jack Hobbs. If you look carefully above the clock tower you can see that the weather vane depicts a cricketer at the wicket.

It was also here that the modern rules for association football were established, before then, the rules from differing clubs meeting up to play would cause tensions.  In 1848 the teams in the area met to establish one uniform set of rules as a way of preventing fights and disagreements. These rules were fixed to the trees on Parker's Piece and, later, when the Football Association was founded in 1863, they used these Cambridge rules.

Parker’s Piece has always been widely used by the communities in Cambridge, providing a location for all sorts of celebrations and remarkable events. On the 28th of June, 1838, the Municipality of Cambridge organised one of the largest banquets ever prepared at Parker’s Piece to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Victoria. The total number of participants was 32,000, with 15,000 diners and 17,000 spectators, at a time when the population of Cambridge was less than 30,000 people. In total, the diners consumed 1,015 stones of meat, 72 lbs of mustard, 140 lbs salt, 125 gallons of pickles, 4,500 loaves of bread, 1,608 plum puddings of 6.5lbs each, and 99 barrels of ale. What was truly remarkable about this event, was not just the scale, but that it was organized in just 13 days! 

Image courtesy of the Cambridgeshire Collection, Cambridge Central Library.

To find out more about the history that has inspired this composition and its lyrics you can visit the Historyworks website.

Click on the film link below to access a fun film showing the route and the process of the Cycle of Songs journey:

Libretto: The libretto can be downloaded here.

Score: The vocal score can be downloaded here and the piano score can be downloaded here.

The following are draft demos of parts for the Cycle of Songs Choir to learn the piece.

Solo Soprano

Soprano Part 1

Alto Part 1

Alto Part 2

Tenor Part 1

Tenor Part 2

Reality Checkpoint - Parker's Piece


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