Thursday, 9 March 2017

Schwa: I Am Alive (I Guess)

Peter Spafford, Jacqui Wicks, Richard Ormrod
Darla Dryland writes
As I took my seat at the Heart Centre in Headingley, I was greeted by a glittering, yet tranquil scene. The performance area was framed beautifully by clusters of dazzling fairy lights, illuminating the space cluttered with an array of musical instruments. Peter Spafford and Richard Ormrod, who together make up Schwa, awaited us, accompanied by singer Jacqui Wicks.

The trio’s enchanting performance opened with Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘I am alive, I guess’ set to sombre music that established an element of reflection, capturing the sense of personal discovery and what it feels like to be truly live. The first half of their performance guided us through a journey of the various experiences we encounter through life and the awakening of the soul. They transformed works by poets such as T. S Eliot, Robert Browning and Edna St Vincent Millay into beautiful songs flowing with emotion and prosperity. The musicians intertwined song and spoken word throughout their performance, creating a constant rise and fall in tension that had the audience captivated from start to finish.

Peter Spafford

Richard Ormrod       Photos Siyun Yang

In the second half of their performance, the group showcased a selection of songs from Schwa’s new album Threshold. These more upbeat and lively songs gained active interaction with the audience. Jacqui Wicks, on vocals, left the audience speechless with the power of her voice and the precision of her harmonies. Instrumentalist Richard Ormrod stunned us with his endless musical talent, playing ten different instruments to an exceptional standard. And Peter Spafford illustrated both his musical and literary expertise, making the transition from each song instinctive and continuous.

Not only did the performers create diverse and intensely emotional scenes, but they made it possible for the audience to engage more fully with the work of great poets, creating an expansive and dream- like world in the space of a couple of hours. I would highly recommend that everyone experience the work of this terrific trio. Whether you have an interest in poetry or not, you will be sure to come away feeling inspired and alive.


LitFest was pleased to have the help of two Leeds University students, Darla Dryland and Siyun Yang. Between them we have a blog post and some fine photos.

Schwa will be appearing again locally on 20 May)in the forthcoming Headingley Festival of Ideas, with a 2017 theme of 'Journey'.  

Headingley LitFest are also delighted to be a partner in this local festival; we are hosting the first event - Time Stood Still - on Tuesday April 25th at Headingley Library with a consideration of a German visitor who endured local internment  in WW1. 

Audience comments

What a completely unique experience! Such a joy to hear a special blend of poetry and music. Superb voices and musical skills. A very special evening, thank you.
Bloody brilliant. Beautiful music and a great atmosphere. Wonderful to see it done live - to hear breath through saxophone, see expressions of faces, hear audience respond. Gorgeous and powerful words that made me feel like being creative.
What a talented trio! A delight to hear live music in an intimate setting. The music brings the poetry to life.
Quite enchanting. Music and words, food for thought. The best Peter Spafford yet. Three artistes perfectly blended.
Enjoyed Threshold so came tonight. Especially like it when all three of you sing at the same time because of the variety of your voices. Great night thanks.
A lovely, gentle evening - friendly atmosphere - very pleasant space. Good mix of words and music.
The atmosphere was good, the mood light hearted and the performers talented. Some of the words in the second half were more familiar, and therefore easier to hear, but in the first half the words were drowned in part by the instruments.
A super and imaginative event. In the first half I couldn't hear all the words, but they seemed to be clearer in the second half. Great to hear poetry clad in such a variety of musical sounds.
Excellent! The female vocalist was outstanding, and the musical backing more than adequate. More please!
What a fantastic evening. My first visit to the LitFest. The atmosphere will prompt many further visits to other events.
So many reference points to enjoy - something you wouldn't find in any other venue. Poetry, cabaret, musicals, jazz, folk. Great to share it with a room full of people.
Most enjoyable blend of music and poetry, beautiful harmonies (would have liked it to go on a little, or a lot, longer!)
Very good music from Schwa. This was the first time that I have seen them and I would probably consider seeing them again and recommending them to one or two people.
No-one should come in during the performance! Wait for the song endings at least.. Wonderful music from all. What a voice she has! What an asset Jacqui is.
Great music and lyrics from Peter Spafford, Richard Ormrod and lovely vocals from Jacqui Wicks.
The music helped me engage further with the source material, a real meeting of sounds and words.
Mellow but with spine tingling moments - enjoyed it very much. Great musicianship and wonderful singing.
Despite having encountered all three of tonight's performers previously in various combinations I was on the receiving end of rapture beyond expectation.
Beautiful music, great venue, thank you.
A grand evening. Beautifully performed and well hosted.
Original and wonderful. Loved the music.
Wonderful performance in a great, welcoming venue.
Educational, innovative, musically talented.
A good blend of music and words. Very impressive array of instruments.
Eloquent and different. Sad and happy.
Beautiful voices. Lovely music. Thank you for a lovely evening.
Lovely! Nice arrangements of nice tunes.
Very much enjoyed.
Engrossing, brilliant.


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