Christmas cracker: Carol Ann Duffy teams up with Little Machine on festive album
Could poetry provide a Christmas hit this year? The poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has teamed up with Little Machine, a trio of musicians that sets famous and contemporary poems to music, to create Dark Rose for Christmas - 10 album tracks of Christmas poems with musical settings. Little Machine have already added music to a number of the poet laureate’s poems – she has in turn dubbed them “the most brilliant music and poetry band in the world”.
As Little Machine – Chris Hardy, Walter Wray, and Steve Halliwell – explain on their website: “Last year Carol Ann suggested we create musical settings of the Christmas poems she had written for the ‘Twelve Poems of Christmas’ series published by Candlestick Press over the last six years. We composed six settings and performed them at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre Studio and live on the BBC Radio Scotland Arts Show with Janice Forsyth in December 2014.
“The original set consisted of ‘Advent’, ‘Christmas Eve’, ‘The Mistletoe Bride’, ‘December’, ‘The Single Bed’ and ‘The Bee Carol’, and the songs were so well received that the idea of the Christmas album was born with the poet laureate agreeing to write four new ‘lyrics’ to meet our demand for the standard 10 album tracks. Carol Ann actually gave us five brand new ‘songs’ to work on: ‘Elvis’, The Lord of Misrule’, ‘Oh Hogmanay’, ‘The Lineage’ and ‘Dark Rose for Christmas’ which became the title track.
“We spent the summer honing the arrangements and recording at Hotel Zulu studios in South London with our own Steve Halliwell in the producer’s chair. We were delighted to have the assistance of trumpet and whistle wizard John Sampson and the choir of Emanuel School in Battersea in creating a piece of festive magic, a future classic and the first album ever penned by a poet laureate.”
Is it time for a change from Slade at Christmas? Could one of these songs be pulled from the album to provide a surprise Christmas chart hit? Contenders could be ‘The Lord of Misrule’, a rollicking number with a definite Ian Dury flavour; ‘Elvis’, in which an imaginary young Elvis Presley turns up the doorstep to sing a carol; and ‘Oh Hogmanay’, a cheery refrain to see in the new year.
Little Machine will be performing at a number of forthcoming Christmas shows with Carol Ann Duffy, including Cambridge winter literary festival on Saturday 28 November, Manchester’s Royal Exchange on Monday 14 December, and Nottingham University on Tuesday 15 December.