Brett Anderson, Charles Hazlewood, and Paraorchestra plus special guest vocalist in an exquisite anthology of music by icons such as Echo and the Bunnymen, Skeeter Davis, Japan, David Bowie/Jacques Brel, Depeche Mode, and Suede.
First broadcast online by BBC Cymru in March 2021 at GŴYL 2021 with guest vocalist Nadine Shah, Paraorchestra’s Death Songbook premiered live at Wales Millennium Centre with guest vocalist Gwenno as part of Llais on Saturday 29 October 2022.
This rich set – amplified by the diversity and virtuosity of Paraorchestra musicians in new arrangements by composer Charlotte Harding – features delicate new versions of songs about death, the death of love, of loss, and ultimately of transcendence. It reminds us that music is our greatest friend in bleak times; inviting us to crouch around a candle and meet our sorrow head-on, comforting, nourishing, and uplifting.
Watch the trailer for the 2021 broadcast, which also featured Nadine Shah:
Originally recorded and filmed at Wales Millennium Centre under the disquiet of the third COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, Death Songbook returned to the Donald Gordon stage for this very special live performance.
(Image Gallery: Death Songbook at Llais, Wales Millennium Centre, 2022. Photography credit Kirsten McTernan)
Death Songbook was broadcasted online by BBC Cymru Wales across the weekend of 6th – 7th March 2021 as part of GŴYL 2021 When Brett Anderson, Charles Hazlewood, and Paraorchestra were joined by guest vocalist Nadine Shah plus Adrian Utley (Portishead) & Seb Rochford (Pulled By Magnets, Acoustic Ladyland, Sons Of Kemet)
It received its television premiere on Sky Arts on Friday 26 November 2021.
In a journey through the melancholy and euphoria of loss, Death Songbook embraces a predominantly acoustic set – contrary to Paraorchestra’s bold, loud, and typically electronically influenced or amplified output – celebrating a multiplicity of song styles and song writing, moods and textures, through an unusual combination of instruments, for a spectral, ethereal soundscape. Ancient instruments like Dulcimer, handbells and recorders sit aside Wurlitzer piano, alto flute and heavily processed vibraphone; creating warmth, depth, space – and comfort.
It couldn’t be more 2021 if it tried…Indie anthems were given a classical twist; Echo and the Bunnymen’s Killing Moon and David Bowie’s My Death were delivered with heart-wrenching beauty. Anderson’s own The Next Life (written about the death of his mother) was as haunting as they come, while Suede B-side He’s Dead was delivered with Britpop swagger. Anderson leaned into the mic like he was at a sold-out Knebworth, rather than an empty theatre”
“It has been pure unmitigated joy putting Death Songbook together with Brett and Paraorchestra, if that isn’t a contradiction! I am British after all, and I’d say melancholia is our defining national characteristic: British people feel comfort in melancholy. Songs about death, the death of love, loss, anxiety, loneliness, they make us feel transcendent – and in a period of global anxiety, that’s a real balm.” Charles Hazlewood
(Images from Death Songbook recording for GŴYL 2021. Credit Kirsten McTernan)
“This was such a joyous project to happen amidst the gloom of January. I’d loved Nadine’s work since I heard Fool and she and I had spoken about doing something together for ages as had me and Charles who I had also greatly admired from afar. For this all to happen against the odds with those wonderful musicians from Paraorchestra, plus the talents of Adrian Utley and Seb Rochford, was just so lovely” Brett Anderson on Death Songbook 2021
Llais is Cardiff’s annual international arts festival inspired by the instrument that connects us all – the voice.
With a mixture of free and ticketed events, Llais presents a programme of adventurous live music, thought-provoking performance and playful experiences for everyone to explore.
Not confined by genre or artform, Llais celebrates internationally acclaimed artists through to the creativity on our doorstep, transforming Wales Millennium Centre into a festival site like no other.