The Stopping Train


The Stopping Train | 2017

Recording by the Gavin Bryars Ensemble, with Blake Morrison, of a piece designed to be listened to, on headphones, while travelling on the train from Goole to Hull (in East Yorkshire) and back. The individual tracks are timed to coincide with each of the five stops along the route in both directions.


Tracks:

1. Goole to Gilberdyke
2. Gilberdyke to Brough
3. Brough to Ferriby
4. Ferriby to Hessle
5. Hessle to Hull
6. Hull to Hessle
7. Hessle to Ferriby
8. Ferriby to Brough
9. Brough to Gilberdyke
10. Gilberdyke to Goole


Performers:

Blake Morrison, speaking voice
Morgan Goff, viola
James Woodrow, electric guitar
Nick Cooper, cello
Gavin Bryars, bass


Play Tracks:

  1. 4. Ferriby to Hessle


Note : The Stopping Train

The Stopping Train

The Yorkshire Festival and Sound UK commissioned Blake Morrison and I to create an audio work to be listened to on the train journey from Goole (my birthplace and home town) to Hull. The piece is designed for the stopping train rather than the "express" though it can be played on the fast train too. The audio was made available as a download to be played back on personal audio devices during the journey. The piece follows precisely the sequence of stations between Goole and Hull and is designed specifically for this journey, allowing the listener to board the train at Gavin's birthplace and embark on a uniquely personal artistic journey through the Yorkshire countryside. There is also a version for the return journey. Blake Morrison's poetry refers to my personal history in the area as well as to topographical and historical material. Blake reads his own poems, and members of the Gavin Bryars Ensemble play the music. Sound design and all technical aspects of the work were handled by Mic Pool, with whom I have worked on Opera North projects Overworlds and Underworlds in Leeds (2012), and Winestead in Holderness (2017).

When I was a pupil at Goole Grammar School from 1954 to 1961, the school day would finish at 4PM, but there were a number of pupils who, to the great envy of those remaining, had to leave early to catch trains home. There was just one pupil who would leave at 3:40 to catch the westbound train to Selby (known as the "pull and push" because it was a single track line and simply came back in reverse). But a greater number left at 3:45 to take the Hull train, to various stations on the easterly route. It always seemed curious that there were one or two pupils who even came from Hessle, on the north bank of the River Humber, only 5 miles from Hull but some 25 miles from Goole. One of the stations, Broomfleet, is no longer served by the current train schedule and another, Saltmarshe became a major feature in our thinking with the piece, though unfortunately had to be excluded. I had originally planned the whole piece to include a stop at Saltmarshe but the first time we took the train it sailed straight through - it transpired that, these days, it only stops there three or four times a day. But as it happens, on the trains that do stop at Saltmarshe, the timing of the journey is often not affected because of a signal that stops the train shortly before Gilberdyke, to give priority to the Leeds-Hull express joining the line. In fact when we filmed the journey the train did stop briefly at Saltmarshe, but then was not held up at the junction where the Leeds-Hull track joins and so we made up time...

The railway track, essentially, follows the River Ouse, which becomes the River Humber when the River Trent flows into the Ouse from the south, about halfway along the journey. The train crosses the Ouse shortly after leaving Goole station over a bridge that was, until relatively recently, the first river crossing inland from the North Sea. After cutting across extremely flat farmland it eventually reaches the Humber's north bank, and follows it all the way to Hull, passing by the spectacular new (1981) Humber Bridge. While Blake's poetry describes the journey, musing on the area's history and geography, the music underscores the texts incorporating a number of musical allusions - there are several brief references, unsurprisingly, to the theme of Jimmy Giuffre's jazz classic The Train and the River...

Through making this work I was led back to my hometown and performed there, for the first time since I had played bass in the local amateur orchestra some 55 years earlier (playing bass alongside my mother on cello and conducted by my uncle Will). My ensemble, comprising the four musicians on this recording, plus two of my singers, gave a concert at Goole's arts centre, Junction, a few months after the launch of The Stopping Train. My return to East Yorkshire, this time to Holderness, continued shortly after through Winestead, a piece for tenor and four players performed in the tiny church of St Germain, Winestead, where Andrew Marvell's father had been rector. And so my homecoming continues...