“Where’s the chicken…” – a blog post by the Snapshot Songs composer Stuart Hancock

In yesterday’s workshop at the Artizan Street Community Centre, E1, we de-constructed a chicken casserole…in song-form.  The discussion had turned to the latest food trends in the capital, and elderly local estate resident Trudy O’Brien recounted her own gastronomic ‘snapshot’: namely, she ordered a chicken casserole at a nearby café, and didn’t quite get the homely stew she was after.  This triggered a new snapshot song – composed by the group in the ensuing 10 minutes – that involved each of them taking on the role of an ingredient in Trudy’s casserole, coming together singing the refrain “Where’s the chicken…?!”

Bonkers?  Yes, absolutely!  Every bit as bonkers as the graphic-equaliser-London-skyline song from Fellows Court Community Centre last weekend, and the smartphone-zombie, CCTV and ‘soundscape’ performances from the Barbican workshops, to name just a few: delightful examples of the creativity that can bubble up when you’re nudged gently out of your comfort zone at a Snapshot Songs taster workshop.

When The SHM Foundation first proposed the idea of a zeitgeist-themed song-cycle, one that built upon and updated the traditional song-cycle form, the first big challenge was: how do I go about capturing the ‘zeitgeist’, and what on earth is it anyway?  I quickly abandoned the idea of trying to be too all-compassing with it – and opted to deconstruct it into a handful of ingredients, or ‘snapshots’, dipping in and out of the rich stew of modern London life.  It’s turning into a very interesting journey!

Songs so far that have a place in the cycle include adaptations of modern poetry from the likes of Mat Lloyd (“This City”) and Luke Wright, alongside new commissions from the Barbican Young Poets group, who are tackling the challenging subject of mental health and suicide.  I’ll be transforming the tweets of the late, great Ivy Bean (the world’s oldest tweeter at 104) into song. We’ll have stories of mobile-phone abandonment and wild goose chases with sat-nav.  The members of Only Connect will be singing – and rapping – about “The Next Big Thing”, and exciting collaborations are in the pipeline with FutureBand and Body & Soul.  And, naturally, I’m looking to develop some snapshot songs from the gems of zeitgeist ideas that are coming out of our workshops; all ultimately fleshed out into a full arrangement for soloists, choir, drummers and symphony orchestra.  It will hopefully turn into a magnificent musical casserole that we all find is to our liking!