Hannah Peel & Paraorchestra reveal details of new collaboration, The Unfolding

Hannah Peel & Paraorchestra with Charles Hazlewood have announced details of a major new work, The Unfolding, set for release on 1 April 2022 via Real World Records.

The Unfolding is an extraordinary eight-part collaboration between Mercury and Emmy nominated Northern Irish composer Hannah Peel and Bristol’s Paraorchestra, recorded in precious morsels of time around the global pandemic. There are pieces of music that seek to tell us deeper stories. Others harness the talents of the players at their disposal in adventurous ways. Then there are the rare, generous works that make us think back to our roots as human beings and to our shared beginnings in the universe, that lift us in their melodies, rhythms and textures, that carry us with them. The Unfolding is all of these things.

The Unfolding also explores Paraorchestra’s progressive idea of what an orchestra should be, mixing analogue, digital and assistive instruments with a unique ensemble of disabled and non-disabled musicians to make magic happen.

Charles Hazlewood and Hannah Peel, photographed by York Tillyer

The collaboration’s roots go back when Paraorchestra’s Artistic Director, Charles Hazlewood, met Peel to ask if she’d consider writing for them. By the time they met up in Bristol for research and development sessions, Peel had already been digging deep into ideas of time and the cosmos in albums like 2016’s Awake But Always Dreaming, 2017’s Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia and her 2019 collaboration with poet Will Burns, Chalk Hill Blue. Now she was becoming increasingly fascinated in life cycles on Earth, with influence from Jacquetta Hawkes’ poetic history of Britain from 1951, A Land, and Robert Macfarlane’s contemporary book, Underland, an exploration of deep time and the underworld.

Peel knew she wanted the album to be driven by sounds that suggested the primal roots of ourselves and sought inspiration from Paraorchestra’s players. She loved the low woodwind played by Lloyd Coleman (“he’s a massive part of it…the work really evolved around him and that sound world”) and the twitching, fluttering recorders of James Risdon (“they have this real, woody, early music energy”). Central too was the “amazing” drumming of Jonny Leitch, influenced by his love of heavy rock and trapeze artistry, and the voice of soprano Victoria Oruwari, which provides moments of serene beauty in the rawness. “Her voice, her spirit, her magic, her beauty as a human as well as an artist is off the scale,” Peel says.

The Unfolding was recorded at Real World Studios in Wiltshire. The perfect place, Peel says, for The Unfolding to emerge, not only because the studios are accessible for all musicians, but also because they were “surrounded by nature… you step outside, and it’s like life again.”

In that place and in these tracks, you can hear a composer and an orchestra exploring the idea of evolution in music – but you can also hear something else. You can also hear them evolving together, creating something new, and planting fresh roots from which the cycle of creativity can keep reviving itself.

The Unfolding is almost a life form in itself”, Peel smiles, “taken from the muddy cells of the earth and taking flight into the air then returning to the elements. It’s like a character in itself. It’s a new way of seeing.”

The Unfolding by Hannah Peel & Paraorchestra is released on 1 April 2022 on Real World Records and is available to pre-order on CD, double vinyl, and double vinyl Dinked Edition from today. Artwork is by Barnbrook.

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Featured Release

  • The Unfolding

    Hannah Peel & Paraorchestra

    Released 01 April 2022

    There are pieces of music that seek to tell us deeper stories. Others harness the talents of the players at their disposal in adventurous ways. Then there are the rare, generous works that make us think back to our roots as human beings and to our shared beginnings in the universe, that lift us in their melodies, rhythms and textures, that carry us with them. The Unfolding is all of these things.

By Online Editor

Main image: Hannah Peel & Paraorchestra with Charles Hazlewood at St. George's, Bristol in October 2021. Photo credit: York Tillyer.

Published on Wed, 24 November 21

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