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Music from the Goblin Market

August 30, 2013

The poetry of Christina Rossetti is a favourite at The Reader Organisation, with her work being featured in our Minted and Poems to Take Home anthologies and right here on The Reader Online. Over the years, many of her poems have also been read aloud in our Get Into Reading groups, including extracts from Goblin Market – one of her most famous works, published in 1862. The narrative poem tells the story of two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, who are drawn from their home by the call of goblin merchants, selling fruits of many kinds and colours:

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:

While one of the sisters refrains, the other gives into the goblins’ temptation and a cautionary tale unfolds…

SONY DSCA new adaptation of Goblin Market has been put together and performed this summer by the award-winning Liverpool University Drama Society, featuring expressive movement, original poetry and a specially composed musical soundtrack – half of the proceeds of which are very kindly being donated to The Reader Organisation to help support our outreach work, allowing more people to enjoy the great words of Rossetti in future.

Goblin Market previewed at the Kazimier Gardens in Liverpool in July, and recently played to thrilled audiences at a week-long stint at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Composer and musician Alex Cottrell, who composed the soundtrack along with Dr Sarah Peverley from University of Liverpool, takes us through how he came to be involved in the production and the music-making process:

“Director Zoe Wiles made it clear from the beginning that she wanted the play to give an immersive experience, to set it amongst the audience as much as the stage itself. So that got me thinking that the soundtrack should possess an atmospheric quality, something that should bring it away from resting on top of the performance as mere mood music. By tapping on instruments, sliding fingers up and down strings, I tried to create an eerie sense of things skittering in the undergrowth of Goblin Market’s forest setting. These ‘soundscapes’ are prevalent throughout the whole play, often as a backdrop to indicate changes in setting or whilst other music plays.

Then we dealt with the story’s Goblin/Girls binary, representing them with distinct instruments and timbres, but still making them feel related or transformative of one another somehow. For the Girls it was the harp – pretty and almost innocent sounding. Many of the harp parts were written by Sarah Peverley (who also performed them all), including the ‘main theme’ which bookends the play. There’s also a harp-led Lullaby that the girls sing after the Goblins seduce Laura with their fruits – they both did an excellent job, particularly Beth (Lizzie) who has no formal training and had to do harmonies throughout.

For the Goblins it was the Balalaika – a Russian folk guitar giving a harsher, more tinny sound. When it’s played in that fast strumming style (some might remember it from Doctor Zhivago) it seems to quiver and can be quite unsettling with the right chords. It’s heard almost every time the Goblins appear and after a while starts to act as an alarm that they’re coming.

Finally there’s the dream sequence, where we reversed the recording of the Lullaby and had it act as part of an ‘echo’ in Laura’s dream; if you listen carefully you might recognise it.

The soundtrack album has 9 tracks on it, all professionally recorded for the Edinburgh performances, including a bonus piece called ‘Transitions’ created by myself and Sarah that was played during the interval. The Liverpool previews at The Kazimier Garden were a great success and I’d like to offer my thanks to the cast and crew for giving me a chance to be involved – let’s hope they seduced the Fringe festival with the fruits of their labour! Also, a final big thanks to Sarah Peverley who co-created the music with me and was just generally brilliant throughout the process – we are continuing to work together on a new music project, so watch this space.”

50% of the proceeds of the original soundtrack to Goblin Market will be donated to supporting The Reader Organisation’s work. The soundtrack costs £2.50 and can be bought here: www.alexcottrell.bandcamp.com/album/goblin-market – you can also take a listen to all of the tracks there before buying.

For more information on Liverpool University Drama Society’s production of Goblin Market, see the Goblin Market 2013 blog and Twitter page.

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