4 - Ann Lewis

The Art 

from the 12 days of Christmas series by Ann Lewis

 “12 NOCTURNAL DRUMMERS” (13.5 x 13.5cm)  © Ann Lewis 
Series: ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ 
Colours: Single colour linocut


Ann Lewis writes....

“My personal favourite of this series of twelve linocuts and for several reasons, the most challenging. 

I was a bit ‘stuck’ with the subject for the twelfth of my bird-themed Twelve Days of Christmas linocuts until a friend asked  if I’d  heard of the term ‘snipe drumming’. I hadn’t but a quick Google solved that problem and it seemed like a perfect solution to my dilemma. 

Creating a composition with 12 birds that wasn’t a confusing mass of wings and beaks and legs took quite a lot of drawing and re-drawing. Fortunately, the snipe’s body forms a wonderful bullet like shape when it’s ‘drumming’ (the sound is produced as part of a courtship display and is created by vibrating the tail feathers, rather than vocally), so their legs aren’t really visible. 

A sense of movement is produced by the few, curved white lines that arc across the night sky. Are these the tracks of shooting stars or the flight paths of the birds? – that’s up to the person looking at the image. A few snowflakes fall to suggest a connection with the series title”.

Artist-Printmaker Ann Lewis lives in Northern Wales. Aside from her paintings, she has put much of her creative focus into her linocuts over the past four years. You’ll see Ann’s work then my musical response, followed by Ann’s and my comments about our respective works.

The Music

“GALLINAGO”  (3:05) © Helen Davey 
(for 12 voices, congas, bass drum, Christmas bells, piano, shakers and bar chime) A Christmas flight of fancy for the “drumming” snipe bird

I was so delighted when I saw Ann’s series of  “Twelve Days of Christmas” that I would love to have musicked to each and all of them. but I got ruthless and chose one … I loved the moon, the snowflakes, the arcing movements of the birds in flight but especially because I was so surprised to learn about this bird’s “winnowing or drumming”. They produce the sound not vocally but with their outer tail feathers held on an angle during acrobatic high speed dives through the air. Apparently part of their courtship practice, the display can be witnessed on moonlit nights… sigh … Well I fell for it 🙂 I wanted to convey several things in my music:  a sense of soaring; being airborne; the primacy of these beautiful creatures’ courtship; voice and drum. 

As this linocut is the 12th in the “Twelve days of Christmas” series, I couldn’t resist using 12/8 as the basic meter and composing for 12 voices - enhanced of course, with drums and percussion – using cross rhythms. Essentially, Gallinango is Christmas song – dedicated to the “drumming” snipe. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear these Welsh words in the text of the various voices. 

GIACH  – the welsh word for the common snipe 
DRUM  – the welsh word for drum  (the “u” is pronounced as “u” in put) 
GALLIANGO – genus name for the snipe, hence my choice for this works’ title. 
LYRICS –  from the traditional “Twelve Days of Christmas” (which it’s own religious symbolic richness) 

Thanks for flying by,  
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