'A stranger to fame as I was to me,
she smiled on the canvas...
At beautiful streams I drank it all in
till clouds found me missing...
No day held fear, I was my master
for my dreams were pure'.
Laurence A Kerr, 2010, ‘Bio of an Artist’
The 'Bio of An Artist' poem expresses my mindset on my former artistic work and a pervading ideal. I have a piano composition that bears the same title and it expresses (for me) something of my journey so far.
As a child, I was a prolific fine artist and I was greatly encouraged by my parents and my Art Teacher Albert Fenning, to make something of it in my life. Inspired by works like the Mona Lisa, I especially wanted to capture and radiate on canvas the powerful inner beauty and innocence that I saw in people and of splendour in nature. I knew nothing of egotism or self promotion. It was not in me. I just lived for my art. I lived for what art could achieve, the inspiration and uplifting of others, albeit my selectivity and style also revealed something about me.
I had my white canvas and i was happy to make it smile because others delighted in my work.
One beautiful summer day, with sketch pad and pencils I ventured a few miles from home to the outskirts of my City of Belfast and I sat down under a forest footbridge. For many hours I sketched the scene of dancing light on living water running out from under the shade of the ageing rustic brick. The insidious movement of dark clouds overhead, the gradual fading light and passing of time were no threat to me and in this my little world, my 'heaven', it did not occur to me that my parents would worry if I didn't return home on time. I look back to that special day with warmth of heart as all too quickly dark thunderous clouds covered my 'world' and that of my younger brother and sisters with the tragic early deaths of our loving parents.
While Northern Ireland was subjected to the horrors of what people describe as 'The Troubles', our parents (like many other people) also suffered immense trauma as a result of terminal illnesses that lasted several years. Those were dreadful days for my siblings, Neville, Valerie and Patricia and me. Yet, we had to carry on. I always found some respite in my family, my art and among my friends. I was also very active in church life, although I did not profess any formal faith at that time.
In those decreasingly innocent years I sketched and painted portraits of my family and friends, of people I had not met up close. I remained captured by the ordinary and the incredible, the earthly simplicity and the celestial uniqueness of qualities in people, above nature. I portrayed anything I found inspiring and wonderful in creation and the universe.
After the death of my father in 1975 (my mother died in 1973) I gave up any hope of pursuing Art or Architecture at University and joined the Civil Service (one of three job offers) as it seemed to offer long term security.
I remained in the Civii Service for twelve years, Then everything changed for me following study and service at Belfast Bible College where I gained a Cambridge University Post Graduate Diploma (later I gained Post Graduate qualifications from Ulster University and also attended Queens University). During and since then, a lot of good and powerful things as well as challenging and threatening things have happened. That is life for most people i expect.
(More info on more recent history with photos later).
And be it sunny skies or dark clouds that prevail, my image of God, of everyday people of love, faith and hope is rooted in Gods promises and hopefully reflected in my canvas of sound.
I compose in the same manner as I did with my fine art.......from the heart, living to merge my natural senses with the unseen Creator to produce music that is uplifting.
I have no formal training so when I started composing in 2006 I would play and record simple but hopefully expressive and meaningful pieces, usually with a theme in mind.
I am yet in very early days of learning this art and I will always continue to try and improve my quality of structure, technique and expression. I love to explore different styles of playing and seek to build compelling atmosphere etc.
Every piece has been triggered and inspired by events in the lives of my family and friends, who faced joy or sorrow, love or rejection, vision or bewilderment.......'soulnarrative'.
'Majestic Wild' is a homily to my brother Neville. He died in Bristol, England in April 2016 after a long illness. Though his adult life was seen to be given over to abuse of alcohol, bad acquaintances and lifestyle choices, his troubled mind and restless soul was due in big part to a heritage of abuse by others, past and more recent. In earlier years he was an athletics champion at school and elsewhere and loved to be at the centre of any good fun that was happening. In later years he wasn't physically able to walk too far but on good days he always wanted to talk and have a laugh and to reminisce on the good days of his earlier life. He talked about helping his neighbours. He wanted to protect them, to be strong for them and even to fight their battles for them, if he could. Some months before his death I was travelling with my daughter Joanna in the countryside on the beautiful 'Ards Penninsula'. We came across a foal and parents. The parents wanted our attention and they got it. The foal wanted to play and the parents didn't. EVentually the parents gave in after incessant nudging by the foal. The wee family galloped and jumped and bucked and steered. They went wild. It was beautiful and exiting to watch. Neville was like the foal. He didn't want to be too serious and liked to show off a bit.........to go wild if he could. He loved horses. Aged around ten I remember him riding bareback at my grandfathers farm and around twenty he paused on a homecoming visit to take in the majestic wonder of horses being wild. While I mourn him and the terrible things that were part of his life, he was and remains deeply loved and cherished.....'Majestic Wild'.
'Through the Gates' was a song from the depths of my soul to Doug and Judi Dickens (Raleigh, MC) whose daughter died in 2013 (https://www.reverbnation.com/dougdickens). Similarly, 'Eliana' was a prayer of thanks for a little girl (daughter of Nick and Michelle Serb and older sister of Abigail) whose healthy birth is believed to have been supported by widespread prayer.
'Ab Intus' (From Within) and 'Pretioso Momenta' (Precious Moments) were heartfelt songs to my nieces Zoe and Gemma, who faced separate but enormous challenges. 'Lucetis' (You Shine) marks my deep love and appreciation of Jason and Joanna for their love, faith and hope expressed during and beyond the separation of their parents, of whom I am one.
I have spent a lot of time recently trying to improve the standard of quality of architecture (mostly little fixes) and sound (special thanks to Paul at 'steenaudio') that has resulted in remastered work contained in the Album 'From Within'),
As an amateur composer and pianist I know my gaps and limitations and strengths and I humbly appreciate those people who have taken the time to listen and comment. I ritually listen to the compositions of great masters for inspiration. There are quite a few but I always return to Rachmaninov and his Piano Concerto No 2. In my opinion, it is ultimately one of the most majestic and deeply moving musical accomplishments that i have heard. I do not dream of composing or playing at this level....my work is at a simple level, but I will listen to the Master Composers and Pianists and be lifted again and again by those who can capture and even raise the power of living art.....
In this, quite recently I discovered Anna Fedorova:
This website contains a selection of contemporary classical piano compositions from a body of work (approx 100) from 2006 to date.
All that is good here is to the glory of God.
Production by PaulSteenAudio
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Thank you for visiting and listening to my music.