Cracked Voices – giving voice to forgotten characters


Cracked Voices is a new song cycle, based on original research, created by writer Graham Palmer and composer Jenni Pinnock. Following in the footsteps of Schubert and Schumann, this is a cycle of “art songs” or poems set to music. Each song in Cracked Voices is short (around three minutes) with a character and story behind it drawn from the borderlands of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire (where Graham and Jenni both live).

From Servandus waiting on his lost Celtic goddess, to the POWs celebrating Hitler’s birthday on Therfield Heath,  James Lucas’s confrontation with Charles Dickens to Joyce Hatto’s “acclaimed” recordings later found to have been fabricated by her husband, the songs give voice to these largely forgotten characters through Jenni’s “tantalizingly beautiful” and accessible music and Graham’s vibrant text.

Jenni on the compositional process:

Working with a partner on a project gives you the opportunity to bounce ideas off of one another and ultimately produce better work (or at least, it has for me). Having the opportunity to work with a living writer is wonderful too – and quite a rarity really. It does mean you have to ensure your setting is true to the spirit of the text though, and the writer’s intentions. Capturing the spirit of the words and the essences of the characters contained therein is a challenge, and something I feel we’ve achieved in the Cracked Voices songs.

Alongside the song cycle itself, each song will work as a stand-alone piece and some will be arranged for choir, giving a whole host of performance options after the premiere. A CD will be released in 2018. Jenni and Graham are also involved in outreach projects which relate directly to the song cycle, including a series of workshops on writing and opportunities to give local people and schoolchildren the chance to find out more about the characters who are given voice in the songs.

Cracked Voices’ receives its premiere at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge on Saturday 10th March, with a further performance on 28th April in Royston. Full details and tickets here