Lockdown Diaries

5 stories.

5 composers.

5 films.

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted so many people in so many different ways. Their stories are told in the newspapers, on radio and television, and over social media. They have been exchanged by neighbours across garden walls and by mask-wearing shoppers. We have heard so many tales of joy and sorrow, of courage and humour.

5 composers.

We have taken five of those extraordinary stories, complied for us by writer Kamal Kaan, and commissioned five composers - Jake Adams, Rania Chrysostomou, John Kefala Kerr, Nicholas Olsen and Susannah Self - to write new pieces based on the stories.

5 films.

Skipton Camerata has recorded these and made them into a series of films thanks to the technical and creative wizardry of our project partners, Cloth Ears.

Watch Now

Frontline Worker
The Frontline Worker
by Susannah Self and Kamal Kaan
Anti-masker
The Anti-Masker

by Nicholas Olsen and Kamal Kaan
Survivor
The Survivor
by Jake Adams and Kamal Kaan
Death
The Death
by Rania Chrysostomou and Kamal Kaan
Outsider
The Outsider
by John Kefala Kerr and Kamal Kaan

Click on the above links to watch the films and find out more about Lockdown Diaries, or watch the trailer:

Lockdown Diaries has been made possible thanks to the generosity of Skipton Building Society, the Garfield Weston Foundation and Sheffield Oratorio Chorus.

 The Frontline Worker 

Perhaps I shouldn't have left my day job to try and become a stand-up comedian.

The Anti-masker Next

  • Music composed by
  • Script by

  • Narrator

  • Violin
  • Double bass
  • Clarinet 
  • Bassoon
  • Trumpet 
  • Trombone
  • Percussion

  • Conducted by

  • Digital design and production by
  • Susannah Self
  • Kamal Kaan

  • Claire-Marie Seddon

  • Sophie Rosa
  • Richard Waldock
  • Colin Blamey
  • Charlotte Curwen
  • Anthony Thompson
  • Beth Calderbank
  • Polly McMillan

  • Ben Crick

  • Cloth Ears

This commission is so interesting because of its orchestration for actor/narrator and 7 players and because of the intriguing script created by Kamal Kaan. The Frontline Worker which is a combination of stand-up comedy interfaced with the tragedy of a nurse faced with the lack of PPE and ventilators in the NHS during Lockdown. She becomes broken by watching patients die and subsequently leaves her job. There is a Kafkaesque quality to this scenario so I am glad the words will be spoken rather than sung, because the humanistic message is too important to be possibly lost on a vocal line. The orchestration is of course identical to Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale but I am aiming for a more naturalistic. A trap in composing for narrator and ensemble is that the music can become too descriptive of the text and the piece ends up becoming parody of itself although I admit I use a whip and whistle! But parallel to the anarchic hilarity I want to convey the extremely pitiful situation that frontline workers have been forced into during the Covid crisis. Therefore there is thoughtful music in juxtaposition to the comedy.

Susanna Self

Dr Susannah Self ARCM, MPhil Cantab studied composition and singing at The Royal College of Music and Cambridge University. She has just completed her PhD in composition on a scholarship at The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Recent commissions include: Fast: Spitalfields Festival 2020, Wave Form: Royal Birmingham Ballet 2019, Quilt Song: Birmingham Old Rep 2018, SLAP: Birmingham Contemporary Music Group 2018, Freedom Bridge: Birmingham Opera Company 2017, The Butt: Musictheatertage, Vienna 2016, Tardebigge Song Festival 2013, The Boy from Brazil: Tête a Tête, 2012, Heroic Women: Royal Opera House, Garden Venture, 1992.

Dr Self has sung as a mezzo soloist in many opera houses in particular for Opéra du Rhin in Strasbourg, The Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp and Ghent and The Landestheater in Salzburg. Dr Self has run composition workshops for Nottingham University and facilitated music programmes for Skyros, Esalen and Dartington Summer School. She teaches composition at Junior Guildhall and her publisher is Composers Edition.

The Anti-masker Next

 The Anti-masker 

I am wearing a facemask. What? It’s not the right one? Well baaa off ya sheep.

Previous The Frontline Worker

The Survivor Next

  • Music composed by
  • Script by

  • Narrator

  • Violin
  • Double bass
  • Clarinet 
  • Bassoon
  • Trumpet 
  • Trombone
  • Percussion

  • Conducted by

  • Digital design and production by
  • Nicholas Olsen
  • Kamal Kaan

  • Claire-Marie Seddon

  • Sophie Rosa
  • Richard Waldock
  • Colin Blamey
  • Charlotte Curwen
  • Anthony Thompson
  • Beth Calderbank
  • Polly McMillan

  • Ben Crick

  • Cloth Ears

While composing The Anti-Masker I was struck by the powerful expression and character that Kamal Kaan created in his text. I was keen to use that as the initial impetus of the piece. I started by considering the narrator’s role within the ensemble and cherrypicked quotes from Kaan’s text to emphasise the bombastic nature of the character. It was after this process that I started to create a musical space for an in-your-face ranting individual whose anti-masking story is told over six or so minutes with elements of musical rhetoric and reference underpinning their story. - Nicholas Olsen

Nicholas Olsen

Nicholas Olsen is a Scottish-based Welsh composer. He has worked with a number of internationally renowned ensembles and conductors from across the UK and further afield. These projects have included performances and collaborations with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Ensemble Modern, RSNO Chorus and Junior Chorus, Psappha, and Red Note Ensembles. He is currently a doctoral researcher at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire under the supervision of Joe Cutler, and Ed Bennett. In 2017, Nicholas was awarded the Principal’s Prize for All Round Excellent on graduating from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where he studied with Gordon McPherson and Stuart MacRae.

Nicholas is also a committed teacher and has tutored composition in a variety of contexts; including at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland's Composition Summer School and Junior Conservatoire, and at the United World College of the Atlantic.

Previous The Frontline Worker

The Survivor Next

 The Survivor 

Just when you think you’re not strong enough, you remember there’s still some things worth living for.

Previous The Anti-masker

The Death Next

  • Music composed by
  • Script by

  • Narrator

  • Violin
  • Double bass
  • Clarinet 
  • Bassoon
  • Trumpet 
  • Trombone
  • Percussion

  • Conducted by

  • Digital design and production by
  • Jake Adams
  • Kamal Kaan

  • Rob Edwards

  • Sophie Rosa
  • Richard Waldock
  • Colin Blamey
  • Charlotte Curwen
  • Anthony Thompson
  • Beth Calderbank
  • Polly McMillan

  • Ben Crick

  • Cloth Ears

The Survivor takes the story of a man who contracted COVID-19 in March 2020 and was put into a coma before eventually recovering.My main focus when composing this piece was to allow the text to be expressed clearly and to not be hindered by the music, as it is important to remember during this pandemic that it is not just statistics and economies being hurt, but also real people with real stories. As such the material and gestures of the ensemble are relatively simple, focusing more on slow moving lines and shifting harmonies than moments of drama.

Jake Adams

Jake Adams is a composer, guitarist and ethnomusicologist from Brighouse, West Yorkshire.

Jake completed his undergraduate degree at the University of York and studied composition within this time with Thomas Simaku, Roger Marsh and Daniel March. He then continued his studies at the University of York, graduating in 2019 with an MA in Music with distinction supervised by Thomas Simaku. He has received composition lessons from composers including Wolfgang Liebhart, Joanna Bailie, Yuri Kasparov and Oscar Bianchi. Jake's work primarily explores the field of cross-cultural composition, incorporating elements and drawing influence from musics of cultures outside of the Western classical tradition (with his main focus being the music of the Javanese gamelan and Japanese gagaku).

Respect for musicians and cultures is key to Jake's work, and as such collaboration is a key factor within his practice. His work has been performed by soloists and ensembles including the Quatuor Diotima, the Chimera Ensemble, Gamelan Sekar Petak, Jasdeep Singh Degun and Dark Inventions. Jake is the founder and director of The Arc Project, a collaborative new music initiative based in the north of England.

Previous The Anti-masker

The Death Next

 The Death 

I was stood on top of a cliff and waiting for bad news to come push me off.

Previous The Survivor

The Outsider Next

  • Music composed by
  • Script by

  • Narrator

  • Violin
  • Double bass
  • Clarinet 
  • Bassoon
  • Trumpet 
  • Trombone
  • Percussion

  • Conducted by

  • Digital design and production by
  • Rania Chrysostomou
  • Kamal Kaan

  • Rob Edwards

  • Sophie Rosa
  • Richard Waldock
  • Colin Blamey
  • Charlotte Curwen
  • Anthony Thompson
  • Beth Calderbank
  • Polly McMillan

  • Ben Crick

  • Cloth Ears

The script of “The Death” travels through a wide range of emotions, from love, to grief, worry, confusion and shock, fury, numbness, to end up with a form of acceptance and hope to the future. The music is mostly descriptive and linear, preceding the narrator’s line of events for a few moments. It attempts to amplify the narrator's story and be part of her psyche and mind, and by this diminish notions of hierarchy between music and narration. At times the trombone takes on the role of the father where he struggles to catch his breath or with his loving theme.

Rania Chrysostomou

Rania Chrysostomou is a Cypriot composer living in London. Her music is the amalgamation of her life experiences and behavioural observations along with the combination of sounds of Cyprus and her environment. She studied at the Ionian University in Greece, and the University of York in England where she graduated with an MA in Composition. Her music has been performed in Europe, UK and USA, and she has collaborated with artists from different fields like dancers, visual artists, poets, actors, directors, and game designers.

As a music educator she has worked with the early years and in primary schools, currently writing articles about early years education. Creating music with a narrator is a theme she continues to explore through her collaboration with Skipton Camerata and in her piece The Silver Lines, premiered by the Shadanga Duo in Denmark. 

Previous The Survivor

The Outsider Next

 The Outsider 

Apparently we have nine lives? You only one. Be good to it. Treat it kindly.

Previous The Death

  • Music composed by
  • Script by

  • Narrator

  • Violin
  • Double bass
  • Clarinet 
  • Bassoon
  • Trumpet 
  • Trombone
  • Percussion

  • Conducted by

  • Digital design and production by
  • John Kefala Kerr
  • Kamal Kaan

  • Claire-Marie Seddon

  • Sophie Rosa
  • Richard Waldock
  • Colin Blamey
  • Charlotte Curwen
  • Anthony Thompson
  • Beth Calderbank
  • Polly McMillan

  • Ben Crick

  • Cloth Ears

My response to Kamal Kaan’s script was to draw out the impersonal creatureliness of the story’s feline narrator—its disapproving and supercilious nature (“cats have nine lives, you only one”) and glib attitude towards its owner’s death. The Greek folk dance known as the Zeibekiko, with its nine-beat phrasing, provides the musical ‘other’ here, as does a touch of dubstep and a nod in the direction of a certain West End musical. Together, these elements bring an intensity to the quirky depiction of the Covid lockdown, as viewed from the perspective of a domestic pet.

John Kefala Kerr

John Kefala Kerr is a British-Greek composer, sound artist and writer.

A prize-winning graduate of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the University of Sussex, John’s output includes instrumental, vocal, and multimedia works. These are often conceived in close proximity to everyday events, situations and circumstances. John has had work presented at festivals and venues in the UK, USA, Europe and Japan, including the Cathedral of St John the Divine, New York; Wigmore Hall; St John’s Smith Square; South Bank Centre, London; BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art; Select 107 FM; Teatro Rossini, Pesaro; Atelier St Ann, Brussels and De Singel, Antwerp.

John’s first novel Thimio’s House was published by Perfect Edge Books in 2013 and he has held residencies at Durham Cathedral, Dove Marine Laboratory, Grainger Market, UK National Railway Museum and National Centre for the Written Word.

Previous The Death

Follow us: