An album written and recorded on location in and around the South Downs National Park in West Sussex, England. 


 

 

 

 


 

 

It's not uncommon when out and about, especially in an area of outstanding natural beauty, to find photographers taking pictures and artists making drawings of the remarkable scenery that surrounds them. It's a lot less common to stumble across a composer with a full-blown portable recording studio doing essentially the same thing with music. But if you've been visiting the South Downs over the past few months, you might have seen exactly that!

Composer Paul Johnson Rogers, previously from Rustington, West Sussex (but now resident in the USA) always considered himself lucky to live in such a picturesque place and is no stranger to the coast and countryside that makes this newly created National Park so special. Motivated not only by the beautiful environment, but also by the many new initiatives being put in place to protect it, he decided to take a portable studio out on the road and create an 'album of musical snapshots and sketches, pieces written and recorded at the places that inspired them'.

The result is a unique album comprising twelve tracks that represent just some of the places one might encounter when visiting the South Downs. The evocative "Monarch's Way" and the darkly atmospheric "Clapham Woods" rely on traditional, orchestral tones to convey their message; the "Arundel Suite" and "Bluebells" offer sparkling displays of rippling counterpoint, while heavy drums and wailing electric guitars perfectly capture the fury of a "Storm in the Arun Valley".

Although Paul's music has been used in dozens of films and television programmes, he was perhaps best known in West Sussex for his work writing community musicals with the late Paul Brown and Alan L. Strong, as well as for founding the highly successful music department at Northbrook College (Sussex), which he led to Centre Of Vocational Excellence status before resuming his professional career. Paul now lives in the USA, where he works as a songwriter, producer and composer for film and broadcast.

"Notes from the South Downs" is available as a download from i-tunes.

From the UK: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/notes-from-the-south-downs/id557209890

From the USA: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/paul-johnson-rogers/id557209891

and is avaialable from most other online music retailers.

To order a physical copy of the cd or to book Paul as a speaker to talk about the making of the album, please use the contact page.


Track List

1 Chichester Cathedral

The opening track was originally inspired not so much by the history of the building, but rather by its majestic architecture and unique atmosphere, bound together with my many happy memories of rehearsals and performances there in concerts of all descriptions. As a music student I could often be found sitting on an old stone bench in the Palace Gardens with pencil and manuscript sketching out ideas for new compositions or wrestling with orchestration and harmony exercises.

2 Amberley Wild Brooks

Part of the Arun Valley floodplain, it's easy to imagine that this beautiful complex of meadows and marshlands has remained unspoilt and untouched by man. Although the spectacular landscape is host to an abundance of animal and plant life, what I really wanted to capture in this miniature musical snapshot was a sense of the area's timeless beauty.

3 Cresting Bury Hill

There can be few views as breathtaking as that of the Arun Valley from Bury Hill, a picturesque reward for a challenging uphill climb. I wanted to capture that moment when, on reaching the top, the ground seems to fall away, revealing a vista to rival any in the country.

4 Storm in the Arun Valley I, II, III

No matter how glorious the scenery, sometimes the clouds close in, the rain begins to fall and a storm explodes with sudden violence, thunder echoing massively from the surrounding hills and all life cowering before its fury. But, as is nature's way, the tempest soon subsides and normal life resumes...

5 Bluebells

Arguably Britain's favourite wildflower, there's nothing quite so enchanting as a carpet of bluebells decorating a woodland floor in springtime. Myriad flowers form a haze that dances and dazzles the eyes, which I have tried to embody in this tripping counterpoint of gentle bell tones.

6 Clapham Wood

This scenic woodland is well known for tales of strange and unusual events. Regardless of one's personal views it's hard now to disassociate the area from its reputation for ancient mystery, which is expressed in the music's opening key structure shifting from Am to Eb with tremolo string and orchestral accompaniment.

7 The Monarch's Way

Following his defeat at the Battle of Worcester, Prince Charles (later to become King Charles II) escaped to France via this meandering footpath of over 600 miles, there to begin nine years of exile. Some people believe that his sombre experiences at this time, especially of the grave risks that others took on his behalf, gave him an appreciation of all people, rich and poor, leading him to become a King 'without airs and graces'.

8 Arundel Suite I, II, III

Although dominated by the Castle and Cathedral and imbued with a thousand years of history, this pretty market town manages its heritage with grace, elegance and a lightness of touch which I hope are reflected in these three short chamber pieces.

9 Highdown Gardens

Created by Sir Frederick and Lady Stern, these delightful gardens offer a unique collection of rare plants and trees, many collected on expeditions to China and the Himalayas, hence the Oriental influences in the music.

10 Halnaker Mill

Built in the 18th Century to replace one that had ground flour for the Goodwood estate since the 1500's, this striking mill sits in a lonely spot on a high ridge, affording views across the coast and countryside to Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight beyond. The structure may be physically empty but it seems to resonate with history, a repository for thousands of memories accumulated over many centuries. To me, this is an enchanted spot and it inspired this contemplative piece in which the ghosts of the past hover forever on the edge of perception.

11 From the Arun to the Sea

Imagine floating the length of the River Arun, some twenty-five miles from its origin in the gills of St Leonard's Forest, down past Horsham to Arundel and finally Littlehampton, where it meets the sea. Sitting on the bank I was reminded particularly of Heraclitus and his idea that no man can ever step in the same river twice, for it will never be the same river and he will never be the same man.

12 Harbour Lights

This piece was written at Littlehampton Harbour, where the sounds of the wind and waves give way to the welcome sights of town and home. It may often be that the journey is as important as the destination, but sometimes it's nice simply to arrive and know that, for the moment at least, one's journey is at an end.