Students team up with musical collective for cover of classic to help tackle homelessness

Categories: School of Arts, Media and Creative Technology

UNIVERSITY of Salford students are tackling homelessness by teaming up with a musical collective for a new cover of an award-winning song that pays homage to one of the city’s heroes.

Students from the university’s brass band have collaborated with Beehive Sound System to create a new version of the 70s folk classic ‘Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs’ as part of a project in aid of Manchester charity Mustard Tree.

Originally released in November 1977 by Stockport duo Brian and Michael before reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart the following April, the song is a tribute to the life of artist L.S. Lowry and his distinctive style of drawing human figures as ‘matchstick men’.

The cover of the Ivor Novello award-winning track is available on Spotify, Apple Music and other digital music stores to stream and purchase digitally from today on the anniversary of Lowry’s birthday.

The new cover is accompanied by an animated music video, developed by the university’s animation students that pays homage to Lowry’s painting style and imagines how landmarks such as MediaCityUK, the Lowry Theatre and Manchester Central Library would have looked if painted in his signature style.

The project was led by Mark Denby, producer and leader of Manchester-based Beehive Sound System, who oversaw the recording of the piece at 80 Hertz Studios in Manchester earlier this year.

He said: “It’s been a delight to have put together such a unique project which celebrates the life and work of Lowry and raises awareness of Mustard Tree’s important work to help those in need.

“Lowry’s life was very much about persevering through adversity. He kept going with his craft despite those who doubted him and his work and that seemed the perfect fit for a song to shine a light on the support that Mustard Tree provides to those who face similar personal struggles.

“The brass arrangement we developed with the students really bring new emotions to the song and it is a wonderful homage to a piece of music that is very much embedded in the bricks of Salford’s history. Creating the animation was a real challenge but the result is a beautiful companion to the song that faithfully echoes Lowry’s unique artistry.”

As the original song contained a brass band, Mark and the students were keen to include its traditional sound as a reminder of working-class life in the North of England and in recognition of the university’s significance in brass banding heritage in the United Kingdom.

Elliot Gray, who graduated from the university this summer, lead on the brass arrangement and conducted the six brass instrumentalists from the Musical Arts programme during the recording.

He said: “It was an amazing experience. A very professional day in a top-class recording studio. It was only my second time in a professional studio environment and so I got a lot out of it.

“The final track is fantastic. It is amazing to see how it evolved through the recording process. To see how the brass parts fit into the overall piece has been very creatively satisfying. I learnt so much from writing in a more commercial style and working in an independent way. It was great for me and something that I can point to as an example of real-world professional experience.”

Alice Marriot-Lodge, a third-year Musical Arts student played baritone horn on the piece.

She said: “I think that our cover is a truly unique take on the song. The original is great and when it came to covering it, it was so interesting to look at it from several different approaches. The lyrics are so unlike most other music, and it has such a nice melody to it.

“When we got into the recording studio, it just all came together perfectly, and it was such an enjoyable experience to be all together in one space as I haven’t had the opportunity to do that often over the last two years. It was a delight to be involved in such a great project.”

Alina Coaca, a third-year animation student, was the animation production co-ordinator of the accompanying video. She said: “Lowry was an amazing artist with an inspiring painting style. As a student, it was a good experience to work on this brief for a real client and see for myself what industry expectations are like.”

Jo Walby, CEO of Mustard Tree said: “Lowry is a shining example of how someone born with limited experiences can go on to leave a lasting legacy through discovering and following their passion.

“Mustard Tree exists so others across Manchester and Salford can come together and create opportunities of their own. We’re extremely grateful to the University of Salford and Beehive Sound System for approaching us to be a part of the project – helping us to combat poverty and prevent homelessness.”

Mustard Tree and the Beehive Sound System are preparing a live music event early next year with special guests performing the track along with other songs to fund raise for Mustard Tree with more details to come shortly.

You can watch the animation below and view an image gallery of how our students imagined how Manchester and Salford landmarks would look in Lowry's signature style. 

Image shows LS Lowry in animated form painting One Angel Square

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