Some reviews of published work:
—Rebecca Tope (Author of The Cotswolds Mysteries series and others, published by Allison & Busby)
“’The Cloth We’re Cut From’ was wonderful and ‘Crescendo’ took me right in to the scene and used all the senses.”
—Susan Gibbs (Author of Call of the Litany Bird, published by Loose Chippings Books)
Interview with journalist and writer Steve Rudd
WordSong is a unique event – a vibrant showcase of contemporary storytelling and acoustic music. The show uses multi-media formats , short films and sound FX to enhance the short stories of writer, Nicholas John and the virtuoso guitar-playing of Keith Thompson. Performing under the group name, Moses Wiggins, Nicholas and Keith have taken the WordSong show to venues around Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, as well as further afield. Fellow writer, Steve Rudd, recently interviewed Nicholas about the show and its origins.
You’re the man behind “WordSong”, a project that fuses music with storytelling. Please tell us more… WordSong features a combination of spoken word, contemporary storytelling and acoustic music. We use multi-media format, short films and backing tracks, with the aim of enhancing the storytelling experience as live performance, in an almost theatrical way.
What inspired you to set sail with a project wielding such scope? One thing led to another. I was reading my stories at bookshops: one of them, “Sweetheart Like You” loosely features the Bob Dylan song of the same name and when I got a gig at an Arts Centre in Cirencester, it seemed a great idea to call in the services of Keith, to incorporate a live version of the song as part of the story. It went down well and we decided to explore the process further. We started to write together, incorporating literature and music from the beginning. Audiences responded really well and I then looked more at the actual performance aspect: illustrating stories with visual imagery and sound effects was the next logical step.
Has it required much effort to adapt your ideas to create an audience-ready show? What Keith and I do falls between ‘music’ and ‘spoken word’ and venues and promoters can struggle with how to bill WordSong. We book a lot of our gigs ourselves directly and I have to fit in with Keith’s touring commitments with his band as well, so we don’t perform as much as I would like. Everything we work on is organic, and has to have that “feels right” moment. We’re great believers in having good ideas in the pub!
The show incorporates multimedia in various guises….I love using films, it sets the scene for the stories brilliantly and creates atmosphere right from the start. The secret is not to overdo it – if the film is too interesting, the audience just watch the film and don’t bother listening to the story. The Unthanks recently toured with songs performed in semi-darkness to the backing film of the Tyne shipyards: it was excellent, really moving.
What do you hope to achieve with WordSong? We want to gig more! It’s great fun, we get paid and I get a real buzz about people saying afterwards, “I didn’t know what to expect, but I loved it!” I think the show surprises a lot of people. We’ve always found more ladies come to hear the stories – they drag their other halves to our gigs and the guys wonder why the hell they’re there but, put a pint in their hand and let them listen to a story about murder in the Yukon Gold Rush and they love it! I think it’s about developing the art of storytelling and placing stories in the theatre of live performance.
Have you produced anything like this before and have you had any help with its production? No, the art form has dictated what we do. It’s been a very natural process. I have big ideas and can often get a bit carried away but, with luck and a following wind, most of my stupid ideas have been realised, one way or another! When we play larger venues, they are well-equipped with bigger screens, mixing desks, sound engineers and suchlike, which makes our job easier. When we play smaller places, we are fully self-sufficient and have our own PA, amps, lights, projector and screen. It all gets into the back of the jeep. And I’m always looking to develop ideas. We sometimes work with local writers and poets at gigs. Rehearsed readings are fun too. And, although primarily WordSong is a vehicle for my own stories and our own songs, I love throwing the odd cover into the set. A run-through of Bob Newhart’s brilliant “Driving Instructor” never fails to loosen things up!
How can people find out more about you and WordSong? My website www.wordsong.org.uk has MP3 audio stories and videos of live performances which give a good idea of what we do, as well as some short stories.
Anything else in the pipeline? I’ve just finished a short run of storyteller gigs with Gloucestershire poet, Derek Healy, entitled “Small Scenes from a Big World” which has been fun. Hopefully we’ll be doing a few more of those throughout the year, as well as some more WordSong shows.
Steve Rudd is a writer, musician and traveller. Visit his website at www.steverudd.co.uk . This article was adapted from an interview published on his website.
Words and Songs – Cole’s Books, Bicester, Oxfordshire (November, 2013)
Last Friday night, our local independent bookshop, Cole’s, was hosting an evening of storytelling and blues. It was a first, an experiment, so there weren’t very many of us. I am so glad I went, not only because it was great fun, but also because I reckon there will be many more people in the audience next time and we got to enjoy an intimate gig – a once in a lifetime experience. I know a few artists: writers, poets, photographers, actors, etc. – no, not established artists, at least not all of them; the hard-working, passionate type who struggle to practice their art while also juggling family life and paid jobs – and it is so difficult for them to find a venue that will welcome them and give them a chance to perform or show their art. Cole’s is one of those rare places. Add to that the fact that the acoustic was great, and you’ve got the perfect Friday evening gig. The band Moses Wiggins – the history of the band name was best left untold, we were told by its two members Nick John and Keith Thompson – performed Word Song, a collaboration of story and song that combines virtuoso guitar-playing with traditional and contemporary storytelling. They opened with a narrative song they wrote together, ‘The Hanging Tree’, and proceeded to take us to London 1963, contemporary Nashville and New Orleans. It was a fantastic theatrical and musical experience. You can find a promotional video of Moses Wiggins on youtube but be warned: the live experience is a hundred times more intense than the video – Laurie D Saunders
Moses Wiggins at Oddington (November, 2013)
Moses Wiggins, comprising singer/writer Nick John and virtuoso guitarist, Keith Thompson, gave a lively performance in support of Holy Ascension church, Oddington, on Saturday 16th November. Their show was an inspired mix of music and story-telling, aided by video effects and lights. I enjoyed The Hanging Tree, a song Nick and Keith had written together, but found the stories, which showcase Nick’s writing talent, as well as his dramatic and absorbing method of telling them, with Keith providing atmospheric incidental music, were the highlights of a most entertaining evening. They are an act well worth seeing, as are Onyx, an all-female group with strong songs and tight harmonies, who shared the bill with Nick and Keith . – Wilkie Martin
Peppers, Gloucester (November, 2014)
Well – what a fantastic evening. Moses Wiggins enthralled their audience with stories and the Blues.
All tables were booked and the show was SUPERB…..