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RNS Sessions: RNS Moves – Sam Butler’s 'A Ceiling Full of Stars'

Recorder player James Risdon performs Sam Buttler’s ‘A Ceiling Full of Stars’ with the RNS Moves ensemble.

RNS Moves is a unique, inclusive ensemble which brings together musicians with and without disabilities to rehearse and perform at Sage Gateshead. The group features members of Royal Northern Sinfonia performing alongside disabled musicians, including Clarence Adoo.

Performed live by RNS Moves on Saturday 28 November 2020 at Sage Gateshead.

About the music

Sam Buttler (b. 1996) is a Welsh composer who embraces many musical styles and idioms. He is currently Associate Composer with The Ripieno Players. In 2019, he worked closely with Macnehster-based flautist and teacher, Lily Caunt, on ‘A Ceiling Full of Stars’, a composition inspired by and recorded in the Monteath Mausoleum near Ancrum in the Scottish Borders.
This piece, for treble recorder and electronics, incorporates field recordings from the surroundings as well as within the mausoleum. The imposing structure was erected in 1864 as the last resting place of General Sir Thomas Monteath Douglas, four years in advance of his death. Buttler writers: ‘This building has an incredible acoustic, as well as a ceiling featuring 48 green glass stars. I wanted to capture the grandeur of the space, as well as give the music a ghostly element. The piece falls into three seconds: ghosts and stone, moonrise, and starlight and spirits. The first imagines the mausoleum empty apart from the dead, with just a small amount of light shining through the ceiling. The second depicts the moon rising over the stars and filling with a pale light. In the third section, the stars in the ceiling now shine, and the spirits within the mausoleum dance, before resting again at the end of the piece’.