Inspired by reconnecting with a beloved piano that had been in his family for more than a century, musician and composer Richard Laurence conceived a new neoclassical music project during the that would become the first new music he would release in 15 years. He chose the name Gifts From Crows as a poignant nod to the receiving of an unexpected gift, a reference drawn from the lore of such birds bestowing found treasures and mysterious gifts upon people throughout time. The debut album Holding a Thought Forever was recorded during the coronavirus lock-down period in England using samples and electronic instruments to accompany the piano-based compositions, but the music was originally conceived with orchestral performance in mind. Now, thanks to a collaboration with Northern Film Orchestra (NFO), that is how it will be heard in series of new EPs the first of which is being released today.
Northern Film Orchestra Sessions Vol. 1 features live performances of 3 key pieces from the album including “Remembering Who and What We Are” which I had the privilege of premiering in its original form at the start of the year. Due to lockdown restrictions, the orchestra had not performed for 4 months and so jumped at this opportunity and set themselves up for a socially distanced recording at Stoller Hall in Manchester with a 20-piece ensemble conducted by Melvin Tay and arranged by Alexander Proudlock. As lovely as the original album is, when hearing these pieces it is not hard to understand why Laurence was so keen for the music to be played in this way. The stated mission of NFO is to give the composers they work with “maximum creative scope” and these effulgent and uplifting performances do just that.
I am thrilled to be able to premiere this special video of the beautiful lead single, ‘As Nature Returns’ by filmmaker Corey Rid. Taking advantage of the close access and ability to move between the players on the stage in a way that would not have been possible had an audience been present, he captures not only the performance but the build up to it as members of the orchestra arrive at Stoller Hall, take their places, and begin tuning up. For many of us, this will be as close as we have been in a long time to the wonderful sense of immersion that comes from walking into a concert hall in anticipation of the magic that is to unfold.
I’d been imagining this music being performed for so long now but, with the ongoing COVID situation, I didn’t know if it would be possible. Meeting the NFO was transformational in that sense and, whilst the social distancing was a challenge, just hearing your music played back to you by such wonderful musicians was an incredibly moving experience.Richard Laurence
Gifts From Crows is planning 2 further sessions with the NFO in June and September with the ultimate aim of holding a concert bringing together the entire album performing all the works live at Stoller Hall towards the end of the year.