Silent Conversations - Reimagining Sacred Chants
In 2015, Christopher Hawkins set out on a two-year journey to record a selection of well-known and lesser-known Sacred Chants - a genre which had long held his fascination, with its timeless beauty, and contemplative reach.
The obvious choice for such a programme would have been choral ensemble, but Christopher ventured in the opposite direction, initially sketching out some 25 arrangements for solo piano.
What followed was an evolution from pure piano instrumentals into more complex reimaginings, involving combinations of piano, cello, viola and violin, alongside stunning, unembellished solo arrangements for piano, violin, cello and classical guitar respectively.
Teaming up with Sheffield-based producer James Bacon, Christopher made full use of the studio's Bösendorfer Imperial - a piano prized for its richness of sound and singing sustain.
Violinist and violist David Milsom's instrumental skills and scholarly background bring a unique and mesmerising dimension to the work, whilst cellist Liz Hanks' soulful and sensitive performances create the ideal warmth and sense of space, inviting the listener into a world free from the pressures of modernity.
What remains, when the words of the chants are hidden? The short answer is "Silent Conversations".
The longer answer will be a matter for each individual listener deciding for themselves.
Christopher Hawkins’ early musical grounding was in sacred choral music and classical piano.During his time singing in the choir of All Saints church, Ecclesall in Sheffield, he became Head Chorister, also taking an interest in church organ. Christopher attained the Saint Nicholas Award, the highest singing award from the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM).
As a member of the RSCM Northern Cathedral Singers, Christopher toured many of the country’s great cathedrals and minsters, performing recitals and services of worship, including live BBC broadcasts for Choral Evensong.
Christopher also represented his region in the Choirboy of the Year competition, and performed at the televised Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.
As a pianist and keyboard player, he has performed across a wide range of genres, including work with Andy Lee (Producer, Love to Infinity label), as a studio session musician, and on tour with live bands.
Liz Hanks studied cello with Antonia Wickham and Bernard Gregor-Smith at the University of Sheffield. She was awarded the Julian Payne Recital Prize and Petri Watson Exhibition.
Liz freelances in both the classical and popular music worlds. She has performed with the Manchester Concert Orchestra, National Festival Orchestra, English Philharmonic Orchestra and Lincoln Chamber Orchestra. She gives regular recitals with her ensemble Silver Strings and with the Mezin Piano Trio, taking her to Africa, the Arctic and destinations throughout Europe.
As Director of the Up North Session Orchestra, Liz has recorded for Richard Hawley, Paul Heaton (The Beautiful South), Slow Club, Duane Eddy and Thea Gilmore, and has performed live with Smokey Robinson, The Charlatans, Edwyn Collins, Thea Gilmore, Russell Watson and Alfie Boe.
David Milsom (B.Mus, Hons., M.Mus., PhD, FHEA) is a violinist, violist, musicologist, lecturer, reviewer and instrumental teacher, based in Sheffield and Huddersfield. He holds the post of Head of Performance in the music department of the University of Huddersfield, where he is also the Director of HuCPeR (Huddersfield Centre for Performance Research).
A native of Sheffield, David began his violin studies at the age of five with respected local teacher, Pamela Price. In 1985, aged eleven, he embarked upon two intense years of study with former Lindsay String Quartet leader, Peter Cropper, during which time he won a rare ABRSM Gold Medal. In 1987 he began three years of study with Roger Bigley, former violist in the Lindsay Quartet, Deputy Head of Strings at the RNCM, and a former student of Watson Forbes, before a similar period of study with Martin Milner, former leader of the Hallé Orchestra, pupil of Henry Holst.
David’s activities centre around performance, on modern and period instruments, and he is dedicated to promoting a passionate and charismatic aesthetic of performance, questioning current conventions and seeking to communicate historical music to a growing audience.