Open the Gate

Hugh Nankivell – BSO Associate

This week I am working in Bournemouth for the BSO with a wonderful organisation called ‘The Complete Freedom of Truth.’ Alongside animation, film, radio, poetry, theatre, dance and more, I’m helping to make and shape music with young people from across including Bosnia, Georgia, England, Portugal, Italy, Serbia and Romania. This evening we watched a film about ‘Sevdah’ – the Bosnian soul music that is a wonderful bridge between east and west. In this film was the composer Nigel Osborne, who wrote an opera about Sevdah after the terrible 1992-95 war. In the film Nigel talked about how much was destroyed for people in that war (and some was filmed in ruined libraries and other derelict buildings) but said ‘you can’t destroy a song’.

I like this idea, and it is even true for songs that only exist for the time in which they are written. I make many songs with other people – in fact it is the activity I do most of in my life and it is great to have reaffirmed the idea that no songs can be destroyed.

Today I was with the BSO family orchestra and their big event at Meyrick Park, Bournemouth (and as I write I can hear the fireworks at the end of that event from a few miles away). I played in the family orchestra directed by fellow associate Sam and had great fun in their new piece ‘Orelob’. Afterwards I began to write a song with a family (two boys, Ed and Henry) and their parents, the song was called ‘Open The Gate’ and had four lines.

Have your money ready
They’re coming in for the day
Step inside the gate
It’s time to play.

It took only a few minutes to come up with words and melody and we then made an arrangement of the song and sang it through with instruments accompanying. Over about a twenty minute period we had created a new piece of music with a band of about forty people of all ages.


Later that afternoon I led some group singing with the audience from the main stage (perhaps there were 1000 folk around at that time of the day) and decided that we should sing ‘Open The Gate’ to finish off with. I introduced it and credited Ed and Henry and could hear and see their family cheer as I mentioned their names. Everyone joined in and folks seemed to be enjoying singing this new song.

On the stage today well-rehearsed music such as Debussy, Vaughan Williams and Simon and Garfunkel was played, but also the new song only written that afternoon by a family and a family orchestra and then sung by one thousand people. This song is probably not a great song and may not be sung again (in public) but the little journey it has had is important. Folks will go home knowing that music can be created in an instant and this music can have as much value to some of us as the music that is deliberated over and rehearsed many (many) times.




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