Laurie Lee, Stroud’s most famous son, who died 25 years ago this year, will be celebrated at the 76th Stroud Arts Festival this October with the premiere of Down in the Valley, a brand new show by Stroud-based singer/songwriter Lisa Fitzgibbon and her band, the PowerFolk Quartet.
Down in the Valley features a cycle of songs by Lisa and readings from Laurie Lee’s writing by Stroud poet Adam Horovitz. Inspired by the picturesque Slad valley and funded by Arts Council England, Lisa’s songs are deeply informed by Laurie’s life and work, whose writing explored our relationship with nature and the importance of community.
The songs in the cycle include: a seasonal tribute to one of Laurie’s favourite views in ‘Swifts Hill’; ‘Murder at the Cross’, a traditional murder ballad co-written with Jon Fletcher; ‘The Death of Florence Tuck’, a lament for Miss Flynn, whose suicide was documented in Cider with Rosie; ‘Winter in the Woolpack’, a rousing sing-along about Laurie Lee’s beloved village pub, inspired by the pictures on the walls in the public bar; and the spirited ‘Rosie’s Reply’, co-written by Adam Horovitz, which gives voice to the woman who gave her name to Laurie’s most famous book, and tells her story beyond the confines of the page.
Adam Horovitz says that the songwriting collaboration on ‘Rosie’s Reply’ was “a really good interweaving of the two disciplines [of poetry and song writing].
“There were many women who said they were the Rosie from the book, and I think all of them have some claim, not least because Laurie, by his own admission, made the character of Rosie Burdock an amalgam of several women. It was a pleasure to help give them all a voice.”
“Researching and writing these songs has been a total musical deep-dive and culturally immersive experience,” says Lisa Fitzgibbon. “I moved to Stroud before the lock-down and spent many hours walking the winding paths and woodland tracks of the Slad Valley, imagining myself into the landscapes and soaking up the stories of days gone by.
“I’m delighted that Down in the Valleyis part of 76th Stroud Arts Festival programme which is all about making connections between music and words, people, and places, national and local.”
The PowerFolk Quartet are: Jane Griffiths on fiddle and viola; Jon Fletcher on guitar and mandolin; Colin Fletcher on bass; and Lisa Fitzgibbon on guitar, ukulele, and vocals. They will be joined on the night by guest artists Sarah Nicolls on inside-out piano and Abbie Lathe on backing vocals.
Down in the Valley: songs of landscape and legend takes place at Lansdown Hall in Stroud on Saturday, October 22 at 7pm. Tickets, priced £14.50 for adults, £10.50 concessions and £7.50 for children, can be booked at www.downinthevalley.co.uk, where you can also hear the songs from the show.