Acclaimed folk stars to perform live soundtrack in Norwich to film about infamous gallows

Dead Rat Orchestra will take the concept of the live film score to a new level with their acclaimed

Dead Rat Orchestra will take the concept of the live film score to a new level with their acclaimed score to James Holcombe�s Tyburnia, with Lisa Knapp. Picture: Submitted - Credit: Archant

Dead Rat Orchestra, Lisa Knapp and filmmaker James Holcombe to bring hanging back to Norwich Arts Centre for live film-soundtrack event involving rare folk ballads, six projectors and local stories.

Tyburnia both visually and thematically explores how, despite the infamous gallows having long since

Tyburnia both visually and thematically explores how, despite the infamous gallows having long since vanished, we still stand in the shadow of it's punitive ideology. Picture: Submitted - Credit: Submitted

The Dead Rat Orchestra, one of the UK's most innovative folk ensembles, will be joined by the groundbreaking singer Lisa Knapp to provide a live soundtrack to a film about the legacy of the infamous gallows at Tyburn.

Taking the concept of the live film score to a new level the orchestra and singer will be joined by filmmaker James Holcombe to perform the acclaimed score to his film Tyburnia

While the musicians breath new life into broadside ballads and peculiar and rare songs by or for those condemned to 'dance the Tyburn jig', Holcombe will be performing a live 'director's cut' of his film.

For the performance at Norwich Arts Centre next week, he will be utilising six film projectors and three screens as well as physically manipulating, distorting and occasionally destroying the film live, to create unique performance. The event will also be introduced by a regional historian and will include locally sourced footage and stories.


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For over 700 years there was a site of execution at Tyburn in London — close to the current site of Marble Arch. Those who fell foul of political, religious and judicial reforms enacted by the state were executed for public entertainment and instruction.

https://vimeo.com/148423522

These executions chart a history of the UK, illustrating the twists and turns of monarchical and political whimsy, church and state, and the birth of capitalism.

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Shot on 8mm and 16mm film and using hand processing and historic chemical techniques Tyburnia is both visually and thematically engrossing, demonstrating how, despite the gallows having long since vanished, we still stand in the shadow of its punitive ideology.

Daniel Merrill, of Dead Rat Orchestra, said the project is an opportunity to breath new life back into some very peculiar and rare folk songs. With their gritty, rough hewn interpretations and dextrous multi-instrumentalism, the three-piece have created an evocative soundtrack.

Many of the broadside ballads featured have become a staple of folk music, but here, presented in close association to their original context, their power and resonance can be truly appreciated in a new light. Some of the contemporary versions of long forgotten songs use the luridly descriptive 'thieves cant' — a secret language used by thieves, beggars and hustlers of various disciplines.

'Tyburnia is one of the most challenging and important projects we have undertaken,' added Daniel. 'We've been working on it for three years, and it keeps getting more intense. The addition of Lisa's voice and musicality opens up new avenues of song for us to enable us to really do justice to James' extraordinary film.'

Groundbreaking singer Lisa Knapp, one of the UK’s finest interpreters of song, and Holcombe, will p

Groundbreaking singer Lisa Knapp, one of the UKs finest interpreters of song, and Holcombe, will perform the film live. Picture: David Angel - Credit: David Angel

The band have just released a special edition of their score featuring the original album packaged with a new text and cuttings of the film stock used in the creation of Tyburnia on Antigen Records. London's Serpentine Gallery will also be publishing a book, On Tyburnia, detailing Holcombe's unique approach to creating the film.

Lisa Knapp joins the performance having recently released her new album, Till April is Dead – A Garland of May, to rave reviews.

She said: 'I'm thrilled to be asked to join DRO for these live soundtrack performances. I think people will be surprised how much the film and these old songs resonate with the current economic climate.'

• Tyburnia: Dead Rat Orchestra with Lisa Knapp is at Norwich Arts Centre, July 27, 8pm, £11-£5.50, 01603 660352, www.norwichartscentre.co.uk

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