The first track on this album takes me wistfully back to much younger times. My arrangement of Throw Your Arms Around Me had lain unsung for six years until a group of my friends agreed to perform it with me at a concert I organised in July 1999. With my characteristic flair for self promotion I shortened our original name ‘Miguel Heatwole Andsome Friends’ to its current form before we took the stage.
Later that year we premiered another rockapella arrangement, Can’t Stand Losin’ You, but then I spent the next decade establishing the activist choir Ecopella, while channelling my composition of art music into a song-cycle called Unrest, eventually recording it with the Song Company. One track from that project later made it into Andsome’s repertoire: a celebration of power napping called Rest.
In 2009 I restarted Andsome Friends and was delighted to have one of the groups original members involved. Terry Clinton’s original compositions are charmingly poetic and very popular with us. They frequently explore the idea of Change.
Our primary goal has been to record the album you are now holding and I selected Colours In My Head as the title track as much for the cover art it suggested as for its intensely philosophical lyrics.
Accappella mash-ups are a particular interest of mine, and here I interweave selected screen music from shows that entertained my childhood and youth. Swing A Cat is a collection of feline cartoons I liked in the 1960s, while Heroes Of Olde takes a medieval theme.
A couple mates of mine are gifted songwriters and from each I chose a work that I knew would work well with unaccompanied voices. Although contemporary, Russell Neal’s Bright Moon effortlessly captures a romantic mood of the mid-twentieth century. Clark Gormley might prefer not to talk about it, but his comic genius is the Elephant In The Room.
Your heffalump is supposedly afraid of rodents so perhaps a spirited rendition of The Rat Is Round might clear the room? And while we’re rounding things up we might circulate a warning
about a Hospital Mix-Up. Our alto Dallas once sang this to a group of urologists she encountered in a hospital lift. They uttered not a word.
Most of us adore going to folk festivals and we enjoy introducing Banjo Paterson’s legendary Man From Snowy River to our audiences. We usually try to make the introduction last longer than the song.
I wish it happened more often but occasionally I’ve started composing a song while fast asleep. “Fill My Glass” asked the alto in a surreal bar room, and I hope she forgives me for forsaking her seductive breathiness for a clear bell-like soprano tone.
However the previous scenario may have turned out, things look a lot more complicated for the participants in Wayward Waltz. We should all remember that polyamory is wrong. Never mix Greek and Latin in the same neologism!
Waste Hierarchy is an important concept. The idea is to use as few resources, and as little of them, as possible. If we can, we should re-use them and only recycle them when their usefulness is exhausted. By the time we get through the diminished intervals and diminuendos, the re-used perfect fifths and the baroque style fugue of this piece we singers are pretty well exhausted ourselves!
Some years ago Terry watched the weather change several times in one afternoon. His Forecasting is an energetic and uplifting reflection on things not staying the same.
I feel sure that Andsome Friends won’t stay completely the same. A new emphasis on gigging is on the cards. No point making an album if there are no opportunities to promote it! We’ve already begun learning pieces for our second album and have a new member or two joining us. What I trust will not change is the love, hilarity and witty banter that charge our rehearals and dinner parties and which make it such a profound pleasure to share music with very dear friends.
CD review by Tony Smith
With bushfire ravaging so much of Australia, it is impossible to avoid reflecting on what constitutes real leadership.
It is pretty clear that some of the people who address the media, inspire confidence that they understand the need to be decisive in a crisis.
By contrast, some politicians obviously think that the mere fact of their election gives them some right to command respect without needing to earn it.
Around the folk scene there are some excellent leaders.
If you were wandering around a festival and heard beautiful accappella singing coming from a venue, you could be sure that the conductor had earned the right to leadership of the group.
You could also guess that such singing might be coming from Stephen Taberner’s Spooky Men’s Chorale or from Miguel Heatwole’s Ecopella.
Ecopella sings ‘Save the World Music’ in the key of green.
These are activist songs giving voice to many concerns people have about the future of the earth and growing inequality and injustice.
While Colours in My Heart is an album of songs selected for their joyous nature, the spirit of harmony remains unmistakably true to Ecopella’s and Miguel Heatwole’s vision.
In all of these pieces, Miguel’s artistry as arranger is obvious.
Some pieces which are classics of the accapella repertoire (‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’ and ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’), are given a distinctive treatment, other pieces show Miguel’s flair for composition.
A couple of originals deserve special mention.
It is typical of Miguel’s generous approach that he picked up some songs by other festival regulars.
These are ‘Bright Moon’ by Russell Neal, Black Joak Morris and ‘Songs On Stage’, and ‘Elephant in the Room’ by Clark Gormley (Nerds and Music).
The CD includes a pamphlet of lyrics.
A personal favourite of mine is ‘Rest’.
This comes from a suite called Unrest which Miguel recorded with the renowned Song Company.
The piece foregrounds lower voices whereas most tunes on this album are soprano dominated.
‘Rest’ has the purity and harmonic simplicity of medieval choral music and for me, is the most splendid track on the CD.
The titles of some tunes (‘Swing A Cat’, ‘The Rat Is Round’, ‘Hospital Mix Up’) and the name of the group, demonstrate a keen tongue in cheek sense of humour.
So too does the truncated treatment of Paterson’s ‘The Man from Snowy River’.
‘Waste Hierarchy’ is perhaps essential listening for fans of Ecopella’s environmental focus.
The final track, ‘Forecasting’, introduces some instrumental accompaniment.
In the comprehensive sleeve notes, Miguel acknowledges the CD was made on Eora land.
The Friends are many – 24 voices are listed.
Personally, I could listen to more of Miguel’s own voice, but Colours In My Head is very much a collaborative effort.
Regardless of the form of music in which you are involved as performer or listener, Miguels’ final words encapsulate what should be your aim: ‘The love, hilarity and witty banter, which make it such a profound pleasure to share music with very dear friends’.
The pleasure and delight these singers enjoy while making music, is the most obvious feature of this CD.