The cantata has achieved much critical acclaim, with author Orlando Goth calling it an “Amazing Achievement” and writer Jack Higgins saying it is “Remarkable in every way”.
I’m here with Julian Marshall, in Notting Hill, listening to the first playback of his brand new Out of the Darkness CD, released in September and officially on sale at the launch concert on December 16th.
Julian, it’s a pleasure to meet you formally. Tell me how you first got into music..
I grew up in a family of professional musicians. My father (Benjamin Haigh Marshall) was a conductor and my mother (Dulce Haigh Marshall) a cellist. My brother Nicholas (a composer and choir master) is twelve years older than me and so was already doing a lot by the time I was born.When I was a kid I listened and listened to everything, for hours, from Stravinsky to Brubeck via Tchaikovsky, Mozart and The Everley Brothers.
And then, you started playing yourself?
I started the piano aged six and violin aged seven. I also developed a precocious interest in jazz and pop songs. By the time I went to the Royal College of Music, I was as fired up by Carol King and Miles as I was by Schubert and Bartok.
And the pop duo Marshall Hain,that was you, right?
Yes! It was just after I left RCM that I met up with my old school friend Kit Hain who asked me to help her with a song demo she was making. We were very ambitious and focused. Going round the record companies in London circa 1976, they all turned us down except Transatlantic (the hip ‘folk’ label) and EMI. We ended up signing with EMI… We recorded Dancing in the City as our first single and the next thing we know (summer ’78), it’s No 3 in the UK, No 1 in Germany and No 1 in Australia. An amazing (and rather scary) way to begin a career!
Out of the Darkness gives the listener a spine-tingling sensation and is almost post-romantic in nature - a ‘new’ take on British contemporary music.…
Well, that’s a tricky one. I’m not very conscious about ‘new takes’ and stuff, more about just drawing influence (and welcoming this) from all the music which has touched me the most. This would have to include a very big stylistic range, from Miles and Weather Report via Laura Nyro, Joni and Steely Dan, to Schubert, Stravinsky, Purcell, Tippett, Britten and Tchaikovsky. Parts of the new piece I am writing sounds like Weill meets the Carpenters!
I do notice that different music kind of ‘ticks’ different boxes and I am interested in a ‘head’ ‘soul’ ‘body’ response approach. Bands like Weather Report always seemed to be doing that to me.
Composer Noa’ Winter Lazerus describes Out of the Darkness as a reminder that great music is still being made. Do you think that River, the penultimate track on the CD, has anything to do with this? It’s fast becoming a hit single just like Dancing in the City! Maybe a touch of commercial potential?
I was very touched to receive that from Noa. He’s an old friend and great colleague. He engineered much of the first and all the second ‘Eye to Eye’ albums that we made with Steely Dan producer Gary Katz back in the 80′s, by the way. He is also extremely sensitive to and interested in the ‘plight of the human’ and I would assume that he’d pick up at once on Gertrud Kolmar’s remarkable text and my attempt to ‘serve’ this as best I could. As to The River, well, let’s see. I love it that people are touched by it. If that spreads out there and people are touched by it further afield, well that lets wonderful. As to Dancing in the City hitness, I can’t think about emulating that or any notion of ‘success’. I’m just doing the best I can to write music of (to me, at least) conviction with strong social themes in the text. The rest is up to whatever transpires in the ‘real’ world!
Since your massive success with Marshall Hain in the ‘70s, what’s the most dramatic change in the music industry that you’ve noticed?
Where do I start?! The entire business has changed fundamentally. Good news: far more power back in the hands of the writers and performers. Bad news: bloody difficult to market and promote – let alone make any money! Challenging, for sure. Huge creative potential, I say. As Korda Marshall said ‘the opportunities are many, the traffic is really heavy’.
Are you still hungry for success? What drives you, almost three decades after Dancing in the City?
The magic and mystery of making music. The illusive ‘never knowing how it’s going to turn out’ and the thrill when it somehow kind of does. The communion of performance is the real proof of the pudding. Do I want the music to be really widely appreciated? Yes, of course!
What inspired you to go ‘choral’ in your new composition?
I love song. I have also always loved many many differing styles of music. ‘Going Choral’, for me, is about writing for wonderful singers and serving great text. For me, today, ‘contemporary classical’ now allows (amazingly) for the greatest breadth and depth of musical expression and is really cross-genre too.
Out of the Darkness,is very accessible. Is that important for you?
It IS about performance for me – communion. So the composition and performance needs to be strong – compelling, even. It’s about poetry and story-telling. About exploring and sharing human being-ness. I am drawn, as ever, to a multi pronged approach – music for the mind, body and soul.
What are the biggest obstacles with promoting a new piece of music?
Getting to be seen and heard – and creating sufficient critical mass for the project to develop a perceived ‘demand’.
What’s in store for the future?
I’ve never felt more excited by the future! There’s something very ‘shit or get off the pot’ about being 55! Every day, for me, is about fully jumping in. I want to produce a fairly big piece about every 12/18 months and be busier than I thought possible and always remember that the nourishment of deep relationship, of family, friends and all manner of breathing in and breathing out is life blood.
Listen to a little snippet from The River here
Live Autumn concerts – Brighton, Devon and London in 2009,UK and German Tour from March 2010.
To experience Out of the Darkness live don’t miss the CD launch concert in London’s St James’s Piccadilly – Wednesday December 16th 2009 at 7:30pm. Free Champagne and an intimate Christmas candle-lit atmosphere.
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