On Windover Hill
Back in 2016, when I first had the idea of a composition project surrounding the mystery of the Long Man of Wilmington, I had a sort of idea that he had been a fairly major source of inspiration for artists over the years, but I wasn't aware of exactly how much he had influenced not just creatives, but also the local community and those in Druid, Pagan, archaeological and folklore circles. I've also been fascinated with the various different responses that the figure has inspired, whether by artists, history scholars, tourists, or simply commuters on their daily trip through Wilmington on the busy A27.
I have carried out extensive research into the history, not only of the Long Man, but of the anthropological responses to the figure and have whittled down an extraordinary number of texts, poems, traditional songs to just eleven passages that I am setting to music. On Windover Hill will be nine movement cantata for chorus and orchestra, that will explore the history and the legends behind the Long Man. Since there can be no right or wrong answer as to the reason for his creation, or even what he represents, my cantata will present a body of evidence to an audience, who can then be inspired to come to their own conclusions as to the figure's purpose on the South Downs.
One of the outcomes of my project, which has become a little bit of an obsession (like all good projects and hobbies should become), is that I hope to have inspired other artists to use the Long Man of Wilmington as a source of creative inspiration. I'm already talking to several artists who are engaging with my project. It's a real joy to have their support and I'm looking forward to seeing the fruits of their labour. For more information on research, do check out my project overview and resources pages.
On Windover Hill
For SATB choir & solo voice, accompanied by chamber orchestra.
1. Up from the hollow and onto the hill (Amy Sawyer, 1928)
2. When you rise in the eastern horizon (Akhenetan, c. 1340BC)
3. Keeping watch from Windover Hill (Maria Cunningham, 1996)
4. Away, away, from men and towns (Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1832)
I have been in a multitude of shapes (Taliesin, 550AD)
5. Mystical call of the Downland (Grace Pursglove, 1930)
6. Aeterne rerum conditor (St Ambrose, c.330AD)
7. Take the free world of forms for your delight (Goethe, 1831)
8. Hymn to Diana (Ben Jonson, 1600)
9. Midsummer night on Wilmington (GD Martineau, 1924)
flute, clarinet, horn, trumpet, timpani, strings
Amazing news from the RVW Trust who have agreed to support this project. Thank you!
A beautiful day spent meeting new friends at Avebury Stone Circle. What a stunning place. Came away inspired.
Check out our friends at the Landmark Trust and see how you can book to stay at Wilmington Priory here!
I've just been asked to write an article for the November issue of The Strollers Tale zine. Keep an eye out for it!
The first mini-flyers to the concert have arrived from MOO! Think miniature business cards...
In the very early stages of planning a pre-concert guided walk around the Long Man of Wilmington with an author, featuring music, poetry and prose... Watch this space - again!
A really great meeting to talk about choreography... watch this space!
You can now find 'On Windover Hill' on www.bachtrack.com
Interesting discussions with Dr Anna Maria Barry (Research Assistant at the Royal College of Music) at Leith Hill, regarding the archive of Avril Coleridge-Taylor.
Took a visit to ArtWave Exhibition at Ashley Hylands studio. Great to see so much original Downs-inspired artwork.
Took a walk around the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset. Good to find comparrisons between the Long Man and its cousin!
Honoured to have been given a grant from the Ambache Chartable Trust towards the performance of music by Ruth Gipps and Avril Coleridge-Taylor next March.
I'm delighted to announce that the
Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra will perform the premiere of 'On Windover Hill' on March 7th, 2020.
Interested to see the work of performance artist, Jasper Griepink, (see 'Overview' page).
Avil Coleridge-Taylor, died Seaford 1998, composed Wyndore (Windover). In talks with the Royal College of Music to view the score. Excited!
Artist Sarah Gregson has produced some very colourful portraits of the Long Man. See 'Overview' page.
3 Movements complete, 1 nearly complete
1 just started. 1 to orchestrate, 4 waiting to start!
Delighted to announce that this project has received funding from Arts Council England National Lottery project grants!
Composing going well - Movt.1 complete!
A wonderful visit today to Boxgrove Priory to check out the space for the first performance.
Discovered the Long Man's "bones" of 1873 were sold off for 2/6d each in 1969. Seeing if Twitter can find some that still remain....
A lovely day spent researching at Wilmington Priory and The Keep.
Excellent meeting with artist, Ashley Hylands about possible collaboration with my project.
Crowdfunding complete! A huge thank you to all my supporters.
Really enjoyed singing through the first completed movement with a fantastic chamber choir last night.
9 copper project tokens remain hidden around the Long Man. Will you find one? Follow me on Twitter to discover more @onwindoverhill.
I'm delighted to be featured on artist, Carolyn Trant's blog. Follow the link here to read more.
Great to be on BBC Radio Sussex & Surrey to talk about the #LongManofWilmington!
This project would not have been possible without an ever-increasing number of books, journals, and articles gleamed from bookshops, online auction sites, archives, and museums.
I have listed everything I've read and drawn from on this site so take a look!
The Folk Influence
You can't beat a simple folk melody; it offers so much to a composer!
It's important for me to be relating this piece to not just historical but musical roots, which is why I've chosen to start the whole piece with an arrangement of "All things are quite silent"- a folk song gathered by Vaughan Williams in Sussex, in 1904. This lends a feeling of rural charm to the start of this pastoral opening, which soon merges into something slightly more sinister and questioning. The words of Amy Sawyer, pictured right, introduce the views of the South Downs, pausing to reflect on its features; the "long gaunt hill", the "grey green curves", "the dewpond", and the "wellworn track". She finishes by asking "Has the past come back? Things long forgotten?" The music continues...
Amy Sawyer (1863 - 1945) pictured right, was an Arts & Crafts artist from Ditchling in Sussex, with a particular interest in folk tales, witches and fairies.
Keeping Watch From Windover Hill
The first song ever written by Sussex folk singer, Maria Cunningham, was entitled 'The Long Man', and appeared on her 1996 album, Moon Goddess. Maria quickly became a highly regarded songwriter, performing extensively around Sussex festivals including the annual Hastings 'Jack-in-the-Green' ceremony. Sadly, she succumbed to her battle with cancer in 2012.
"The Long Man keeps vigil 'til another dawn..."
I am incredibly grateful to her estate for granting me permission to use her poignant words that capture the Long Man so beautifully. They have allowed me to not only quote her text, but also orchestrate her beautiful folk melody that she wrote. Though she never wrote her tunes down, I have been able to transcribe the melody from her 1996 recording. Her song remains the only true folk-song I have found on the subject of the Long Man.
Maria Cunningham (1958 - 2012) performing in Hastings.
When originally researching texts that would best explore the various aspects of history and meaning of the Long Man, I came across two poems, written over a thousand years apart, that spoke to me of the natural music of the Downs, and the evolution of the Long Man's outline. In movement four of this cantata, I have chosen to set both these poems together. Though they intermingle with each other, together they paint a picture of the development of the Downs through the millennia. The lines "Away, away from men and towns, to the wild wood and the Downs" is taken from Shelley's 'The Keen Stars Were Twinkling' (1832), and talks of the "touch of Nature's art", whilst the work of early Welsh poet, Taliesin (550AD) talks of having been "a multitude of shapes" before becoming a "consistent form" - the consistent form we know the Long Man to be since its unsympathetic Victorian restoration in the late 19th Century.
This movement finds excitement and fire from the texts, and though only short, hears the choir and orchestra in dramatic melodic and harmonic freefall.
The call of the South Downs
During a late night traul of Sussex books on a well-known internet auction site, I came across a thin blue volume entitled "Poems from a Sussex pen", by a G. Pursglove. A few days later it dropped through my letterbox and I quickly flicked through its 16 pages in the hope for a mention of the Long Man. Though I was disappointed in that respect, I did quickly come to realise that the poet had a deep love of the South Downs and had included several odes to her "friendly hills" in this little book.
"Mystical call of the Downland, free,
Beauty of Sussex hills.
Mystical call of the Downs to me
Nature with beauty fills."
The inscription on the front cover (to a Miss Porter) was dated Christmas Day 1932, so I can only guess the book dates to the early 1930s, which would fit well with the outpouring of poetry of the 1920s/30s, particlarly by local female poets it would seem. A historian has probably collated facts to argue why this is the case, and I haven't been able to find out much more about Grace Pursglove, other than she was a nurse at London's Queen's Hospital for Children. Whoever Grace was though, she left us a beautiful poem which I have really enjoyed setting for horn, strings, and SATB choir.
St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan and one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century.
Paganism v. the Romans
Movement five is a setting of Aeterne Rerum Conditor, by St Ambrose (340-397AD). St Ambrose is credited as one of the earliest hymn-writers, responsible not only for countless hymnal texts such as the Te Deum, but also for the beginnings of antiphonal chant. Though written several hundred years before the abbey at Wilmington was built, the inclusion of this sacred text is, I think important in the telling of the Long Man's story. Not only is it meant to represent the monks of the nearby priory who may well have been familiar with this particular text, but perhaps more significantly, it represents the struggle between the Roman emperors and Paganism, in which
St Ambrose played a significant role. He heavily influenced the anti-Pagan policies of Emperors Gratian and Theodosius I, who in particular made concerted efforts to ban Paganism in 389AD through his "Theodosian decrees".
The inclusion of Aeterne Rerum Conditor in my cantata is then more significant than it would first appear, particularly as the Long Man is much revered by today's Pagan community. Maybe the fact that a sacred text can be set alongside Pagan sentimentalities shows that both religions are able to co-exist in today's world. After all,
St Ambrose himself still exists - his body can still be viewed in the church of Saint Ambrogio in Milan, where it has been continuously venerated for centuries.
To be Worshipped?
"I thought of that theological theory which suggests the image (of the Long Man) fell down from Jupiter, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles..." The author of numerous books about the South Downs, Arthur Batchelor, often returned to the subject of the Long Man. This extract from his 1909 article "Hero on the Hill" muses further as what or who the figure might represent. According to the Romans and Greeks, the image that "fell from heaven" was Diana, otherwise known as Artemis. Though never truly an "official" Roman cult, the Romans built temples to Diana and, as this coin shows, immortalised her as a triple goddess; Diana as huntress, Diana the moon, and Diana of the underworld. Much like the figure found in the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, the figure stands tall, with bent arms, holding two poles/torches/tools?
In August 1929, the Kibbo Kift youth movement dedicated their banner at the Long Man of Wilmington, recording the event through photographs and an entry in their Kinlog (reproduced below), furthering the idea that the figure is somehow to be revered as a link to an ancient understanding of living in harmony with nature.
In 1600, the English poet and playwright, Ben Jonson, wrote his 'Hymn to Diana', which I have decided to set to music to illustrate the theory that the Long Man somehow represents an idol that has been worshipped and revered over time and is still treated with reverence by the Pagan community today.
Top right: the reverse of a silver denarius from 42 BC showing the goddess Diana as lightbringer and huntress.
Bottom right: detail from a chair found in Tutankhamun's tomb.
Below: A description of the Kibbo Kift's hike up Windover Hill in August 1929, along with an inscription of the event in their Kinlog.
The hooded figures marched up the Long Man of Wilmington. The men wore knee-length braided shorts, brown leather belts, jerkins and pointed green cowls in imitation of the forest outlaws of Robin and his Merry Men. The women wore Arabian keffiyeh-styled headdresses to protect against the sun and one-piece knee-length dresses tied with leather-belts. On the flap of their gray Bergan rucksacks, a mark was painted – a large letter K beside the curling smoke of a campfire and a single green fir tree. The men and women greeted one another with the Native American salute of the open palm, right hand raised high. All the hikers bore rough ash hiking staves, which pushed against the earth as they ascended the Long Man, singing a song of their own devising: “The Kindred is Coming.”
An early portrayal of the Long Man from 1710.