INTERVIEW: Composer Deborah Pritchard, Violinist Greta Mutlu & Theresa Grace Thomas

1.) We’re extremely lucky to have three phenomenally talented ladies pop by and chat with us today- Welcome to Vents Magazine Deborah, Greta and Theresa! Before we get to the matter at hand, how has 2021 been treating the three of you thus far?

Deborah: As three creatives we have really felt the impact of lockdown, but have still tried to develop our artistic practice and keep motivated. Working on our ‘Gethsemane’ project has been a source of great inspiration to us, and hopefully to others. 

Greta: Thank you for having us! So far, 2021 has been quite restful. Under normal circumstances, I dedicate the bulk of my time to live performance – I love the unique experience each concert brings. It’s been disorientating not to share music with a live audience over the past year. At the same time, I’m grateful to have the space and flexibility for a passion project like Gethsemane.

2.) Congratulations and major kudos for the unbelievably beautiful production of your solo violin piece Gethsemanewhich is set to go live on Radio 3 Breakfast this Good Friday, April 2! I know that all three of you had a major hand in bringing this to life. Can each of you talk a little about the genesis of Gethsemane and how it came to be?

Deborah: The idea of a violin piece evoking the tranquil and spiritual narrative of the Garden of Gethsemane came to me over lockdown, as we started to approach Easter. Once written I was able to give it to my neighbour the violinist, Greta Mutlu who brought it to life through her beautiful and expressive playing. The filmmaker Theresa Thomas illuminated the story even further with her visionary use of light and texture.

Greta: It felt really special to receive the music by personal delivery from Deborah. As I was preparing to record it, she was generous with her time and always ready to answer questions. I knew Theresa’s film would be a natural extension of the music, and that’s exactly how I felt upon seeing the final version. It captures and beautifully illuminates the emotional arc of the piece. The three of us shared ideas throughout the process – it felt truly collaborative all along. I’m proud of the beautiful film we created by bringing our respective talents together.

3.) Considering the world circumstances at the moment, what considerations had to go into the planning and execution of Gethsemane?

Deborah: Everything had to be done very carefully, with social distancing and careful attention to lockdown restrictions!

4.) Greta, your playing of the violin was transcendental…Was this more than just a gig for you, was it truly something quite unique?

Greta: Thank you, that’s so kind! I do try to give my best every time I play, regardless of context. There is, however, something special about being the first to breathe life into a new composition. It’s especially rewarding when the piece is this good! Deborah’s music is so satisfying to play; she has a unique sense for nuance, pacing, and powerful expression. It was a joy to play such a beautifully crafted miniature!

One unique (but fun!) challenge of this project was being a recording engineer at the same time as being the performer – the two are very different in nature. Editing a recording of my own playing was quite the revelation!

5.) Deborah, you composed this lovely audio poem. Can you talk a little bit about what your composing process looked like?

Deborah: I chose to write the piece in the Dorian mode, a beautiful sound-world that has a luminous resonance. I sculpted the violin upwards, so that it would increase in intensity and dynamics to sing in the upper register, evoking sunlight and hope.

6.) Theresa, you had the distinction of filming Gethsemaneand WOW! You knocked it out of the figurative and literal park (Haggerston Park in this particular instance). Did the short running time of Deborah’s lovely piece present any special challenges as the person actually shooting the video?

Theresa: Thank you! It was a gift to create along-side two such talented musicians. The short length of the piece did not present a challenge in the slightest. Because the nature of this piece was so narrative driven, it fostered vivid imagery that offered itself so seamlessly to the song. 

7.) The editing or the cuts for Gethsemane are incredibly fluid. What went into editing this dream-like video?

Theresa: My approach to editing Gethsemane was to incorporate a sense of space and time. It was important to Deborah to have birdsong between the pauses which allowed a lot of breathing space between shots. 

8.) Who came up with the concept of Greta playing violin with the blossoms in the background? It has such a cathedral-like feel to it…

Theresa: Initially, Deborah had pictured the piece being played under a canopy of trees to reflect the notion of the prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. With this in mind, I scouted a location with early spring blossoms on my morning walks. It was a beautiful spot to film because passersby would stop to listen and watch and it felt so special to share with them

Greta: We considered several locations before Theresa discovered this gorgeous canopy of blooms. Filming outside suited the piece beautifully, worked well with current safety measures, and put a smile on the faces of all early-morning dog-walkers nearby. With a bit of help for my frozen fingers from a flask of hot tea, everyone was happy.

9.) Have the three of you been surprised by the attention that Gethsemane has already garnered?

Deborah: We hope that the piece will bring beauty light to others. And if that translates then we are hugely encouraged! 

Greta: The film gives me goosebumps and I’m so happy everyone I’ve shown it to has had the same reaction! As it receives more coverage and reaches far and wide, I hope it will move and inspire everyone who sees it.

10.) Is Gethsemane more relevant now than it would have been two years back before the world descended into a pandemic?

Deborah: It is a piece that signifies hope, filmed as the blossom and sunlight arrives in spring. This is needed even more so as we emerge from lockdown, into a world that is forever changed, but still carries immense hope.

11.) On top of the Radio 3 Breakfast broadcast on April 2, the piece is also being performed live at the Shoreditch Church on Easter Sunday. How did this venue performance come about? 

Deborah: We all contribute creatively to the life of the church, and it’s an honour to share this piece with others.

Greta: I have played in Shoreditch Church on most Sundays over the past five years. It’s wonderful to be back in the building after a long pandemic-induced pause. I have played several of Deborah’s pieces there before, it’s always wonderful to share the beauty of music in this deeply spiritual place.

12.) Is there a lesson inherent for all of is in these tumultuous times that three talented people from very different backgrounds can come together harmoniously and create something so beautiful and blissfully peaceful? 

Deborah: Creativity and expression are what it means to be human. To resonate together artistically is a real blessing.

Greta: One always has a choice to focus on the strengths of others and to help bring out the best of them. In my experience, that’s the most likely way to create a whole which is better than the sum of its parts.

13.) What’s next for the three of you? Will there be collaborations amongst you in the future, or is this a one on/one off?

Deborah: We very much hope this project will lead to further collaborations.

Greta: Gethsemane evolved so naturally and we haven’t had a chance to discuss future projects yet, though I do hope we will continue to collaborate!

14.) Final Question: With Easter almost upon us, what does this special day mean to each of you?

Deborah: Easter signifies hope and light, a spiritual time of renewal. 

Greta: Easter is such a special holiday – full of hope, joy, and renewal. This year, celebrations will be paired down compared to usual, but I plan to compensate by making my first attempt at kozunak, a traditional Bulgarian Easter bread.

‘Gethsemane’ - music by Deborah Pritchard, performed by Greta Mutlu, film by Theresa Thomas

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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