George Moorey’s music project inspired by his adopted home of Gloucester
SPACES is a wildly diverse and ambitious music project by composer and producer George Moorey, inspired by his adopted city of Gloucester
Strangers from afar
Come in from the storm
Shelter in our home
Find a place to dwell
Share your story so that we might understand
And we’ll weave strong ties with a peace to counter all despair ‘Strangers’, from George Moorey’s SPACES project – lyrics by Beth Griffin
I’m warned before going round to George and Nic Moorey’s house that they “have cats”, and within moments of arriving I meet Mikey who’s taken over the pushchair in the hallway; Poppet (“the feisty one”) is stalking the kitchen; while big, beautiful Bill is demanding of George’s attention the whole time we’re talking in the basement studio.
“I think he’s like a shaman,” says George. “Whenever I go upstairs to play on the piano, he’s straight on my lap, and if I try to pick up a guitar…” he says, sighing, looking at Bill with exasperated affection, “it’s almost impossible, so I have to shut him out. He seems drawn to music.”
It has to be said – and George is the first to admit it – that seeing him sitting, stroking the huge, white fluff ball that is Bill, brings to mind a certain Bond villain… though the board shorts he’s sporting (George, that is, not Bill) and contented smile (George and Bill) spoil the evil aesthetics.
George and wife Nic met while at Lancaster University in the late ’90s. George was studying Art and Design, while playing and recording in bands and doing live sound for others. “I spent my student loan on kit for recording,” he laughs, evidently knowing even then where his heart was really at. After uni, he returned to London and got a job in a post-production studio doing mastering, but soon realised that, in an environment where a knowledge of cutting-edge technology and staying up ’til the wee, small hours were expected, he was “too old” and so only stayed there for a year. That was in October 1996 – George was just 21 but most of his peers were fresh-fromschool, ambitious 16 or 17 year-olds.
As Nic is originally from Cheltenham, they decided that when they got married they would move to Gloucestershire, which is exactly what they did a few months before tying the knot in September 1998. When they first moved to the county it was Tewkesbury they plumped for, living there for around 18 months before buying a Georgian terraced house in Gloucester with loads of space for family – and that all-important recording studio.
In the intervening years, George settled into city life, making connections, working on musical projects and getting to learn about and love Gloucester’s rich heritage. All of these connections and experiences have come together to help him create SPACES – an ambitious music project inspired by the city itself, and launched at this month’s Gloucester History Festival.
And so, beginning in November 2017, he set about producing a recording of a new original song in each of eight
‘In a humble way I want to make some music in those spaces and leave a legacy’
carefully chosen city venues, collaborating with different teams of local musicians, artists, poets, songwriters and singers. The resulting project comprises films, recordings, artwork, illustrations, photos, and stories.
When embarking on the project, George had several historic venues on his list before deciding on the final eight. The original line-up included The Mariners’ Chapel in Gloucester Docks, the lepers’ chapel in Hillfield Gardens (St Magdalene’s), the chapel at St Margaret’s on London Road, and the United Reformed Church opposite Gloucester Park. However, given the budget he had to work with from the Arts Council, he decided he would limit the venues to ones that he could research thoroughly for the project as well as easily be followed on a city centre trail.
The first up was St Nicholas’ Church on Westgate Street – one of George’s personal favourites, with its fascinating history and “wonky tower” damaged by Royalist troops during the 1643 Siege of Gloucester.
George is keen to give Nic the credit for coming up with the trail idea and, having walked it with George, it works beautifully and can be done in half an hour – though I would urge you take a little longer in order to properly take in the stories they have to tell. Both George and Nic have spent a lot of time walking around Gloucester with sons (Euan, six, and Luca, two) in their buggies, and have got to know the city and its people well.
Starting at St Mary de Crypt on Southgate Street (which inspired The Quietness of Stones); the trail proceeds to Blackfriars (Illuminations); cutting through to Westgate Street via Bull Lane to St Nicholas’ (Strangers); down Archdeacon Street to St Mary de Lode (The Measure of the Man); past Bishop Hooper’s Monument to the Cathedral (Returning); onto St John’s in Northgate Street (Coals); up to the Cross and St Michael’s Tower (Aethelflaed); and finally on to the only secular venue in the trail, the Guildhall (Love Will Remain).
All the songs are of distinctly different genres, but all are inspired by the city, its buildings and characters, from an Anglo Saxon queen (Aethelflaed) to a Victorian miser (Jemmy Wood in Coals), and all are the result of collaborations with musicians, vocalists, poets and songwriters that George has come across during his 19 years in the city.
“Part of my practice is to involve other people,” he says. “I can do stuff on my own, but I always think it lacks.”
I think he’s showing immense humility when he says his solo work is lacking, but it’s evident that George does have a talent for bringing out the best in other people’s creativity. I would dearly love to mention everyone involved in SPACES, but they are legion and all play an equally important part in stitching together the fine tapestry of soundscapes that make up the project. I’d certainly recommend visiting the well designed website, though, listening to the songs, watching the gorgeous videos, reading the lyrics, and finding out more about the people involved.
George’s aim was that he would add his own music to the worship and performances that have taken place in Gloucester’s historic buildings over the centuries.
“Without being pretentious about it,” he says, “in a humble way I want to make some music in those spaces and leave a legacy. I’ve lived here long enough, I think, to feel like I’m rooted to it.
“If I make music and involve other people and approach it in the way I do, then I think that somehow I’m adding to that canon of music that goes back hundreds, maybe thousands, of years.” • The trail map (by Gloucesterbased illustrator Holly Mae Gooch) together with a free CD of the SPACES compositions can be picked up from Gloucester’s Tourist Information Centre from September 5. www.spacesgloucester.com
• The SPACES launch event is on Wednesday, September 5, 7-8.30pm. Free tickets can be obtained from the Guildhall Box Office: 01452 503050, gloucesterticketshop.co.uk
• The SPACES project is part of Gloucester History Festival, which runs from September 1-16. Visit gloucesterhistoryfestival.co.uk
SPACES map (Illustration: Holly Mae Gooch) ABOVE:
PREVIOUS PAGE: ‘Aethelflaed’ from the Spaces project being performed in St Michael’s TowerBELOW, LEFT TO RIGHT: ‘Illuminations’ from the Spaces project being performed in Blackfriars ; George Moorey outside Gloucester Cathedral, one of the ‘Spaces’ venues