Michelle Davis: Tell us a bit about your upcoming album To The Sky. This is your second studio record and the first to actually contain original material composed by you. Unlike the title’s atmospheric suggestion, the main inspiring element here is water…
Naomi Berrill: Yes, water is an important theme throughout the album. As I was writing the lyrics I realised that quite a lot of the songs referred to water or impersonated water in its various states. Being close to nature and the elements is good for our souls and our wellbeing, and so I decided that I would dedicate this album to the element Water. All water evaporates to the sky, most plants and life forms grow up towards the sky, we look to the sky for peace and calm in dark moments, and also for hope and inspiration, so To the Sky seemed to be a fitting title.
MD: Another leitmotif is a deeply ingrained “hope for the future” – could you elaborate this concept?
NB: I am very aware of the future of our earth and what it will hold for our children and grandchildren. With all the news given daily about the terrible state of the environment, things do not look good. But I strongly believe that every little helps, and every plastic bottle not bought, every plastic bag substituted with a cotton bag and every unnecessary synthetic clothes item not bought will make a difference to our world, our seas, our drinking water, our food, our quality of our life, and more importantly, the life of our future generations.
MD: In the run-up to your album’s release, you also launched a beautiful collaborative video-series called HandMadeMusic involving various craftsmanship workshops around Florence… how did you come up with this idea and what was the fil rouge between your songs and the various artisan spaces you performed in?
NB: Artisan craftwork in Florence is a unique aspect of this beautiful city, I knew some of them and I was truly fascinated by their ability in being able to produce something magic, with no hurry. I call this the ‘hand’s cleverness’ and I think musicians have exactly the same approach, especially when they compose music. So that is why I thought it could be interesting to link my music with various Florentine handcrafts. These are not strictly musical videos or documentaries about cratfsmaship, they lie somewhere in-between, and the fact that some of the artisans can use the videos for their own promotion is great.
MD: The cello’s history is deeply rooted in the Renaissance era… how did it become your instrument of choice and has it somehow helped you wade the waters of Italy’s musical past, present and possible future?
NB: The cello is often described as one of the instruments with a range most close to the human voice. I liked this idea as it gave me an image of the cello as a person with a soul, a character, and a voice. As a child I studied other instruments but I soon realised that the cello was the one with which I could express myself best. Much of the important repertoire for cello from the baroque era to the present day has been written by Italian composers and other non Italian composers while in Italy have been inspired by their surroundings. (Tchaikovsky while in Florence wrote ‘Souvenir di Florence’ and G.Cassado, a Spanish cellist and composer lived in Florence for 30 years).One of the most inspiring cellists and composers of today is Giovanni Sollima (From Sicily).And so the cello repertoire alone gives us a very interesting picture of Italy’s musical path from past to present.
MD: How has Florence inspired you throughout your artistic career and how would you assess our city’s musical or overall creative “state of health”? Would you say that you’ve managed to build a sonorous bridge between your native Ireland and your “adoptive” country?
NB: Florence with its architectural and historic beauty has definitely been an inspiring place to live and work in, but two important things that I appreciate about life in Florence are; the ‘Oltrarno’ area, with the various crafts and trades that still flourish today, and the fact that Florence is surrounded by beautiful countryside landscapes, woodlands and hills which can be reached easily. There is were I get my real inspiration. Regarding the creative state of Florence, I think it has really improved over the recent years, and now there are many interesting events, which are more and more geared towards the people who live here and not only the tourists. String City, Music@Villa Romana , Musicus Concentus and Tempo Reale to name but a few.
I think if I have created a type of sonorous bridge with my arrangements and original work, it is more a bridge linking different genres of music, rather than linking Irish and Italian musical culture. It is interesting to know however that there have always been important musical links between Ireland and Italy. They began around the 17th Century with the Irish folk musician and composer Turlough O Carolan. He was a great admirer of the Italian baroque music ( Vivaldi, Corelli and Geminiani ) and this can be be heard clearly in his folk music compositions.
MD: Today, Sunday November 5th, at 5 and 9 pm you will be presenting your album in the beautiful setting of CanGo, Florentine choreographer Virgilio Sieni’s Oltrarno headquarters. What should we expect of this live performance and for the near future?
NB: These performances to launch my CD at Cango will be very special as I will be joined by two musician friends, Katie Bruni on cello and Rachele Odescalchi on violin, and two dancers who collaborate with Virgilio Sieni will also be interpreting some of my compositions. Following on from this performance there will be other interesting performances in special locations. One not to be missed will be at Pian della Fonte, Pratomagno a Sunday lunch and concert in a magical location surrounded by nature.
For more info on Naomi’s music and upcoming gigs, check out her website