The Voyage: University poetry Professor helps Age UK to combat loneliness with music

Date 10.03.2016

Acclaimed writer Charles Bennett, an Associate Professor of Poetry at the University of Northampton, has been collaborating with leading composer Bob Chilcott to write a choral work which explores the theme of loneliness.

Commissioned by Age UK Oxfordshire, the poetry and musical piece has been designed to be performed by community choirs of all ages and abilities. The Voyage premiers in Oxford and Reading on 18 and 19 March, and several choirs are involved – featuring both elder and younger singers, who will come together to perform an inspiring new work exploring life and loneliness across the generations.

Charles enjoys collaborating with musicians, and in recent years has established himself as a powerful lyricist and librettist. He explained: “The Voyage is a long piece of work; 45 minutes in length, and it was a challenge to write. The concept of loneliness is abstract and negative, so I thought about the opposite – connectedness, and wrote eight or 10 songs that together make a whole. On one level, The Voyage is about our journey through life, and on another level it is about connectedness and needing other people.”

“Words affect people, by routinely moving them – as does music. As a university we talk regularly about transforming lives, and music is a good way to do that,” Charles continued.

The Voyage is part of ongoing work by Age UK, which aims to bring communities – of all ages and situations – together to combat loneliness. The charity’s other projects include a befriending scheme linking students with older people, new singing groups across the county – including some for people who have had a stroke or who have dementia, and an intergenerational creative writing publication which charts people’s experiences of finding a way through tough times.

The Voyage was commissioned by Age UK Oxfordshire with the support of Arts Council England, The Austin Hope Pilkington Trust, The Bartlett Taylor Charitable Trust, The Rayne Foundation, and six staff grants from the Tudor Trust. It will be published by Oxford University Press on 17 March 2016. Click here to purchase tickets for the performances.

Who’s who?

Dr Charles Bennett’s writing is widely acclaimed. Evenlode, his ninth collection of poetry, cements his reputation as a writer concerned with place. Celebrated in the 2012 BBC Proms (and featured on the recent double CD Angry Planet) his work with choral composer Bob Chilcott has seen him hailed as a memorable and mesmerising librettist. He is writer-in-residence for the National Trust at Wicken Fen and combines this with his duties as Associate Professor in Poetry at the University of Northampton.

Bob Chilcott has been immersed in the British choral tradition since he sang as a chorister and choral scholar at King’s College, Cambridge. After singing professionally in London and as a member of The King’s Singers for 12 years he became a full-time composer in 1997. He has embraced his career with energy and commitment, producing a large and varied catalogue of choral music, and working with singers and choirs in more than 30 countries.