The recording for the Stories of Sanctuary album began on the 9th August 2018, at Studio One with music producer Ron Angus in his home studio in County Durham. Ten new songs that tell the stories about seeking sanctuary – four of which directly written at the Stories of Sanctuary workshops – have now been recorded. We’ve had a total of eight participants from the workshops lay down their vocal or instrumental parts, plus guest musicians Raghad Haddad (viola player from the National Syrian Symphony Orchestra) and Paul Martin (multi-instrumentalist and specialist in historical music) in the studio. Ron has been recording professional music in his studio for the last 19 years, including leading British singer-songwriter Jez Lowe and the band Lindisfarne’s Rod Clements.
For most of those from the project who came to the studio, it has been their first experience in a recording studio and singing in front of a microphone. There is something very special about listening back to your voice for the first time, through a high quality pair of headphones. This was certainly the case for sisters Hasna and Sabah Hassoun (see photo to the left) who joined the studio to record their vocal parts to the songs ‘So May we Find Peace’ and ‘Like a Butterfly’, as well as a song that poet and songwriter Hasna had written. Hasna’s songs are inspired by overcoming very traumatic experiences she faced living through the war in Syria, as well as her motivation for peace and harmony. The song ‘Let Us Be Together’ cries out for a world in which we realise we all breathe from the same air, live under the same sky, and bleed the same blood. Her song will no doubt be a highlight on the album.
On one of the seven days recording, we had huge privilege of working with Raghad Haddad, viola player from the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra. Raghad has performed across the world with the Orchestra of Syria Musicians, as well as performed with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim, and now lives in the UK having fled from the war in Syria in 2016. Raghad now performs with the Orchestra of All Saints MAS in Brighton and the London Syrian Ensemble, a group of Syrian professional musicians which performs traditional and classical oriental music around the UK.
Raghad performed viola parts arranged for three of the songs as well as spontaneously improvised with folk musician Paul Martin, who goes by the name ‘The Dunholm Piper’. Paul is a multi-instrumentalist from the North East of England who plays an impressive number of instruments including bagpipes, the fiddle as well as the Hurdy-Gurdy. Their improvisation brought together pan-European folk, with classical Middle Eastern quarter-tones in an unforgettable half an hour of music, reminding us of the deeply woven nature of music that has no respect for divisions or borders.
The album will be released in the Autumn and performed at Durham Cathedral on the 19th October 2018, along with Raghad Haddad and members of the Stories of Sanctuary project.