contact me
Reflections on War

 

 

 

Collaborations and Community Projects

 

 

collaborations

 

Gary Miller & Keith Armstrong (1995 & 2001 – present)

 

“There are those who tell the truth in all its loveliness. Keith Armstrong is one of them.” (Adrian Mitchell)

 

gary and keithGary Miller’s ongoing collaboration with acclaimed North East of England poet Keith Armstrong stretches back to their first meeting in 1989 at the launch event for The Whisky Priests’ debut album ‘Nee Gud Luck’ in Durham in November 1989. A lasting connection and friendship was forged. Keith presented Gary with a signed copy of his latest book of poetry at the time, and Gary reciprocated by presenting Keith with a signed vinyl copy of ‘Nee Gud Luck’.
A mutual promise was made to keep in touch with tentative plans to collaborate on a future project which would involve The Whisky Priests setting a selection of Keith’s poems to music and turning them into songs.

 

This germ of an idea finally saw the light of day as The Whisky Priests acclaimed 1995 album ‘Bleeding Sketches’:

 

 “The combination of The Whisky Priests’ Gary Miller and North Eastern poet Keith Armstrong is a match manufactured for mastery.” (Rob Nichols, Paint It Red, UK).

 

“Classic lyrics and class music. Lend an ear singer/songwriters.” (Neil Pedder, ‘Taplas’, UK).

 

“An absolute must for anyone seeking a bit more than meaningless lyrics and musical nihilism.” (Charmaine O’Reilly, ‘The Edge’, UK).

 

£10 + £1 p&p 

 

 

Gary and Keith

 

MAD MARTINS 

 

In 2002 Gary and Keith re-established their creative links through ‘Mad Martins’, a project initially conceived by Keith about the notorious Martin brothers of 18th Century Tynedale, Northumberland; William (the self-styled "philosophical conqueror of all nations"), Jonathan ("the notorious incendiary" of York Minster), and John (internationally renowned painter). Keith contributed a wonderful collection of poems to the project while Gary wrote an epic song cycle about the three brothers, coming up with more than a full album’s worth of material in the space of two weeks, including such gems as ‘In Dreamtime’, ‘The Dandy Horse’, ‘The Paint and The Pain’, and ‘Pandemonium’, amongst others.

 

‘Mad Martins’ was premiered at Northumberland Traditional Music Festival, Queens Hall Arts Centre, Hexham, in October 2002 with a 90-minute performance featuring poems and narrative read by Keith interspersed with a selection of songs performed by Gary accompanied by his twin brother Glenn on accordion and northumbrian piper Chris Ormston.

 

“All this material was cleverly conceived and very well appreciated by the audience. A very fine experience indeed. This was a worthy and entertaining compilation. For anyone with an interest in the Martin story, it is not to be missed. A most enjoyable event in this format with all the participants making a night to remember. Congratulations to the ‘Mad Martins’.” (Henry Swaddle, World of John Martin).

 

Gary’s developing illness at that time, however, prevented further development of the project and it was temporarily shelved. With the relaunch of Gary’s performing and recording career in 2010, however, the 'Mad Martins' project was dusted off and performed again to great success at the Anchor Hotel, Haydon Bridge on Thursday 6th October 2011 as part of the John Martin Heritage Festival. Further shows and a CD and download release of all the songs from the project are planned.

 

TOURS

Earlier, in 2001 Gary Miller and Keith Armstrong had toured the Netherlands as a trio with Gary’s twin brother Glenn. Since 2004 Gary and Keith have toured Germany and the Netherlands together on a regular basis, performing as a duo presenting concerts, workshops and seminars. Further trips by Gary and Keith to both these countries continue along with other European territories such as Ireland and the UK.

 

HEXHAM RIOT

 

In 2003 Keith invited Gary to take part in an anniversary project and performance in Hexham Market Place commemorating the Hexham Riot of 1761. Gary wrote half a dozen songs for the project and performed two of them at the event on 9th March 2003. One of these songs was subsequently recorded as the title track of 'Stand Fast, Stand Steady', Gary's 2005 CD with fellow collaborator Ralf Weihrauch (see below). The other songs, including 'It's A Lottery' (lyrics by Keith & music by Gary), 'Insurrection', 'Bloody Monday', 'Redcoat's Blues' and 'The Horrific Execution of Peter Patterson' (all lyrics & music by Gary) remain unrecorded.

 

 

Gary and KeithTHOMAS SPENCE

 

In 2010 Gary Miller and Keith Armstrong collaborated on a series of songs about Thomas Spence (1750-1814) the noted pioneer of people’s rights, pamphleteer, and radical thinker of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Keith is a founder-member of The Thomas Spence Trust and successfully campaigned for a plaque on the Quayside in Newcastle, where Spence was born, unveiled on Monday June 21st 2010, Spence's 260th birthday, and celebrated through a series of events including performances by Gary of such songs (words by Keith and music by Gary) as ‘Folk Song For Thomas Spence’, ‘The Hive of Liberty’, ‘Jack “the Blaster” Bates’, aswell as songs written by Spence himself such as ‘The Rights of Man For Me’.

 

Further collaborative projects between Gary & Keith are being planned, including a song cycle about the town of Groningen in the Netherlands.

 

“A candidate for the official poet of the Labour Party, Keith writes with anger, pathos and control; combine that with Gary’s vituperative delivery and depth of feeling and you are tasting a potent brew.” (Jenny Coxon, ‘Folk Buzz’, UK).

 

Gary Miller and Keith Armstrong continue to tour as a singer/poet duo and are still available for bookings.

 

 

Gary Miller & Ralf Weihrauch (2005)

 

In 2005 Gary Miller collaborated with German accordionist Ralf Weihrauch. As an acoustic duo they recorded a CD, ‘Stand Fast Stand Steady’ (Whippet Records WPTCD21) and toured Germany.

 

Gary and Ralf were old friends: Gary had known Ralf for many years, as Ralf had previously been The Whisky Priests agent for Germany (through his highly successful one-man agency he had been booking tours of Germany since the 1970s for such renowned British Folk and World music acts as Martin Carthy, Waterson Carthy, Oyster Band, June Tabor, Edward II, Flaco Jiminez, and many more).

 

Gary and RalphSince their last meeting several years previously, Ralf had left agency work behind and returned to his love of playing accordion and was pursuing it as a full-time professional career. He approached Gary with the suggestion that they collaborate as an acoustic Folk Music duo. Gary was in the middle of a long-lasting illness and decided this might now prove a useful tonic at a time when his self-confidence was very low. After a minimum of rehearsal time, the duo was ensconced in a recording studio in Germany knocking out tracks for a CD to promote live shows.

 

Unfortunately this project proved to be the wrong thing at the wrong time for Gary. He simply was not ready for it and was unable to give it his best shot. Gary was disappointed with his own performances and the overall production and feels that the album perhaps fitted in with Ralf’s vision more than his own, as he was too ill to give it his full attention and be as involved as he would normally have been in the creative process that went into making the album. Due to his illness he was also unable to commit to fully promoting the album’s release and after a promotional tour of Germany and despite Ralf's enthusiasm, Gary withdrew from the project. Further tour plans were abandoned and the album's and the duo's profiles slipped. Gary blames himself for not pursuing the duo's potential more fully at the time yet, as mentioned above, it was still too soon for his performing and recording career relaunch.

 

Most of the tracks on ‘Stand Fast, Stand Steady’ are stripped down rerecordings of old Whisky Priests songs, plus a sprinkling of traditional songs from North East England which Ralf sings, a couple of traditional instrumentals which showcase Ralf's excellent accordion-playing skills, and a handful of new songs hand-picked by Ralf from a selection that Gary had recently written at the time. It contains at least two songs of particular note; 'Where the Violets Grow', a personal song about Gary’s late uncle that he still includes in his live set (although the recorded version on ‘Stand Fast, Stand Steady’ is admittedly not up to scratch) and a particular hidden gem in 'Bookend' (originally intended to close what would have been the final Whisky Priests album if the band had lasted long enough to record it).

 

It was a brave attempt by Gary at a time when his illness what at its most intense level but in hindsight it was perhaps something of a backward creative step and for a time it blighted his personal progress. He should perhaps have waited until the time was right and a better opportunity was available. That would eventually come in 2009 with the ‘Reflections on War’ project and the album it would produce to relaunch his recording and performing career more effectively. Nevertheless 'Stand Fast, Stand Steady' stands as a unique addition to the Gary Miller canon of work and as the only recorded material dating from his 'wilderness years', it serves as a rare link between the end of The Whisky Priests in 2002 and his relaunch as a solo artist in 2010. In the meantime, Gary and Ralf have mutually agreed to concentrate fully on their respective solo careers for the time being but neither has ruled out the possibility of a reunion to work on new projects, recordings and tours sometime in the future.

 

 

Mad Dogs & Englishmen (Jan 2000- Jan 2002)

 

collaborations 1Mad Dogs and Englishmen was a unique musical collaboration featuring Gary Miller and Glenn Miller of The Whisky Priests and Joseph Porter of Blyth Power. Combining in equal measure the songwriting skills and vocals of Gary Miller and Joseph Porter together with Glenn Miller's unique and highly inventive accordion-playing style, this ground-breaking all-acoustic trio proved highly original and inspired during its two-year existence. Released in 2000, 'Going Down With Alice', (Whippet Records WPTCD20) the trio’s sole CD release, captured the spontaneity of their rare vision, and exclusively features some of Gary Miller’s greatest songs, including ‘A Rich Seam’ and ‘Seven Hills’. Mad Dogs and Englishmen never progressed beyond a side project for all involved but the trio still performed a total of 33 concerts in England, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.

 

 

£10 + £1 p&p  

 

Collaborations 2“Porter and the Millers actually write great songs with words that mean something and are usually substantially rooted. This reminds you how subtle these guys actually are.” (Simon Jones, Folk Roots)

 

“This collaboration draws the template for what folk-rock could and should be in a world anxiously wrestling with newfound fashions and freedoms… should generate a tremendous buzz and excitement as well as positioning them to build upon their previous successes.” (Geoff Wall, Folk on Tap)

 

 

 

 

community projects

 

 

In addition to being internationally acknowledged, through a 3-decade career, as an accomplished songwriter, live performer, recording artist, record label owner, artist agent & manager, aswell as singer, guitar & mandolin player, Gary Miller is a fully-trained, qualified and highly experienced freelance workshop leader in community arts. He is also an experienced Music Industry college tutor (to National Diploma level),‘Youth Music Schools’ tutor; Musical Director for theatre projects; project developer, manager and coordinator; international lecturer and commissioned author of academic papers on themes of songs & poetry through local history & heritage; he has helped establish new community arts centres and artist networks in various locations in the UK; and more…

 

Since 2003, he has continuously worked part-time as a qualified professional freelance community arts practitioner, leader and facilitator delivering Songwriting, Music, Poetry and Music Industry Workshops for a wide range of community projects throughout the UK and beyond, including much cross-arts collaboration.

 

Throughout his community work he passionately promotes and practices his belief that everyone is capable of creativity and that creative artistic opportunities should be available to all; his community work is universal and caters to participants of all ages (from 5 to 95!) and backgrounds. Promoting self-belief and positive thinking, he uses music, song and poetry, alongside his passion for local history, culture, people, places & events, as tools to inspire creative writing from memories, knowledge and personal experiences, through both individual & group participation on a broad range of universal themes.

 

Since Gary relocated to the Scottish Borders in September 2007, he has been a proactive member and regular facilitator for Think Make Grow Ltd a charitable organisation freelance artists network based at the Maltings Theatre and Arts Centre, Berwick-upon-Tweed. He is also a member of the Think Make Grow Management Committee.

 

To make enquiries about booking Gary Miller for freelance workshops, and for further information on workshops available, etc, contact me.

 

 

The following list is a selection of some of the major community projects Gary Miller has been involved in since becoming a freelance community musician and workshop leader in 1993 (please note: this page is still a 'work in progress' - additional images aswell as sound and video clips will be added to this section soon):

 

 

'Discovering Ancient Kelso' (2012)
Songwriting, recording performance & exhibition project
Commissioned by Scottish Borders Council
Broomlands & Edenside Primary Schools (P6-P7), Kelso, Scottish Borders
CD produced 

 

'Our Place (Songs, Stories & Sketches of the Scottish Borders)' (2012) 
Songwriting, poetry, art and recording project
Delivered by Gary Miller Songs
Greenlaw & Swinton Primary Schools (all pupils P1-P7), Scottish Borders
Book and accompanying CD produced

 

'The Games People Play' (2011) 
Poetry, creative writing, songwriting and exhibition project   
York Art Gallery
Commissioned by York Museums Trust
Funded by Arts Council England, Their Past Your Future MLA, and The Big Lottery
3 books commercially produced - numerous poems, stories and song lyrics  

 

‘Rock Solid’ (2010)
Songwriting and recording youth project
Delivered by Gary Miller & Iain Petrie
Rock Solid Club, Chirnside, Scottish Borders
CD produced

 

 

Thomas Spencer‘A Memorial for Thomas Spence’ (2010)
Songwriting commission and performance project
Newcastle-upon-Tyne & South Shields
Commissioned by and for The Thomas Spence Trust
4 songs (in collaboration with Keith Armstrong) performed at 4 events on 21st & 22nd June 2010 celebrating the unveiling of a plaque in honour of Thomas Spence
Further projects based on the life and works of Thomas Spence are currently being tentatively planned, including a songwriting project and commercial CD

 

 

‘Berwick Welcomes The World’ (2010)

Songwriting project in 7 schools, Berwick-upon-Tweed
Delivered by Gary Miller & Iain Petrie
Commissioned by Northumberland County Council
For Think Make Grow on behalf of Dodgy Clutch
The title song was performed at the ‘Riding the Bounds’ Event in Berwick Market
Place on 1st May 2010

 

 

‘Reflections on War’ (2009)

Songwriting, poetry and exhibition project
York Art Gallery
Commissioned by York Museums Trust
Funded by Arts Council England, Their Past Your Future MLA, and The Big Lottery
CD & 2 books commercially produced - numerous songs and poems
 

“It has been a thrill for me to be involved in this project, and especially to 'find a voice' which has been an amazing experience for me - I intend to go on writing!!” Susan Elliot, participant
 

“It has been a great joy for me to have been part of this project; to have met so many lovely people. I shall be awaiting the next one with anticipation!” Stan Brookes (the Western Front Association), participant
 

"The smaller gallery exhibiting the Reflections on War had a good community feel - the interpretation was detailed and absorbing and the quotes from the people involved in compiling the exhibits were very thought provoking. The interactive audio had quality music and lyrics. The laminated - ‘Links with the Past - somewhere at the front’ - was poignant and well produced. Altogether this exhibition was of a very high standard." Visit England’s ‘Quality Assured Visitor Attraction’ assessor

 

For further information on this project go to the Reflections on War page

 

 

‘Imaginate’ (2009)
Songwriting & poetry project
Artspace, Tweedmouth, Northumberland
For Think Make Grow
CD produced

 

 

‘Eyemouth Transitions’ aka ‘Our Futures’ (2009)
Songwriting, recording, performance and exhibition project
Eyemouth High School, Scottish Borders
Funded by Scottish Borders LIT and LEADER
For Think Make Grow
A showcase event and exhibition took place at the official opening of the new school premises in June 2009
CD produced - 8 songs

 

 

‘Autumn Arts at The Maltings’ (2008)
Songwriting project
The Maltings Theatre & Arts Centre, Berwick-upon-Tweed
Commissioned by Berwick Borough Council
For Think Make Grow

 

 

Throughout 2008 Gary travelled throughout the UK & Europe delivering a wide range of single session songwriting workshops, seminars & performances.

 

He also spent 8 months as Activities & Events Co-ordinator at Lennel House Care Home near Coldstream in the Scottish Borders, devising, organising and delivering a wide range of arts and music activities and events, including a D-Day Celebration, which has now become an annual event. He also produced a fortnightly newsletter, challenging himself to write a new poem for each issue.

 

 

At the same time, he spent 2 evenings a week as a youth leader in charge of a youth club for disadvantaged 8-14 year-olds in Tweedmouth, Northumberland.

 

 

‘Memories of The War Years’ (2007)
Oral history, poetry and creative writing project
Self-funded and self-managed
Bretgate Community Centre, York
Booklet produced - numerous poems and stories

 

 

‘Walmgate Memories’ (2006)

Oral history, songwriting, poetry and creative writing project
Funded by Arts Action York and supported by the National Centre for Early Music
For York City Council and Space 109
The project’s songs and poems were performed to the backdrop of a PowerPoint presentation at the National Centre for Early Music, York
DVD, CD & booklet produced - 11 songs & numerous poems


“My family thinks it’s great. They didn’t think I had it in me to write poetry but this project’s shown that I can. I think it’s wonderful what you’ve done Gary, to put all of our stories into these songs. I’ve got a poem called ‘Autumn Glories’ and it’s going to be published in the New Year by The Creative Touch… all through you starting me off on that road. You’ve done a good job on me. So you see, you sow little seeds and out of little acorns comes big trees.” - Barbara Pettit
 

“The project has been a great opportunity to discover other people’s hidden talents, also to talk about our experiences during the War. The music has been an inspiration too and Gary has worked very hard to make it a success.” - Betty Macdonald, Age 90
 

“The project has been very enjoyable and we have learnt such a lot. I really have enjoyed my Wednesday afternoons. Thank you Gary.” - Mary Bennison
 

“I think it’s a great idea to bring people together and share their ideas about the past… what we’ve done is going to help the younger generation.” - David Livingstone
 

“I have enjoyed these weekly sessions, the most positive thing I found was the interesting memories my neighbours shared: I look at them all in a new light now.” - Retta Jerram

 

 

‘Memories In Song’ part 3 (2006)
Oral history, songwriting, poetry and creative writing project,
The Thursday Club, Alex Lyon House, York
Funded by Arts Action York & Age Concern, York
For Age Concern
CD & booklet produced - 12 songs

 

 

‘Family Matters’ (2006)
Songwriting, poetry and creative writing youth project based on the theme of family, drawing on Gary’s song-suite ‘Family Matters’ for inspiration
Self-funded and self-managed

 

 

York College Tutor (2005-2007)
Gary worked for 2 years as a part-time Music Tutor at York College drawing on his vast experience to teach music and various aspects of how to succeed in the arts and entertainment industry, including the following skills: self-management, event organising and coordinating, promotion, merchandising, stage management, stage craft, publicity, record companies, touring, agency work, etc.

 

 

‘Memories In Song’ part 2 (2005)

Oral history and creative writing project
‘Knit & Natter’ Group, Age Concern, Porter Street, Hull
Funded by The Firebird Trust and Age Concern
For Age Concern, Hull
CD & booklet produced - 13 songs

 

Gary is our music man
He tells us tales gone by
He plays great tunes on his guitar
The tension is on high

 

He gets up to the chorus
We then all start to sing
We’re waving tambourines about
We’re making such a din

 

There are funny songs and sad songs
And tales of all the woes
But we all know when Gary’s gone
We’ll miss him when he goes

 

We feel he’s really one of us
And got really used to him
We’ve often started off the day
And felt that life was grim

 

But talking to the Durham lad
He puts your mind at rest
We feel it is a tonic
And life is at its best

 

So Gary when you’ve left us
Of course that you will do
Just know that all these real old dears
Do think a lot of you

 

(Jean Bishop, participant)

 

 

‘Memories In Song’ part 1 (2005)

Oral history and creative writing project, Alexander Hutchison Court Group, Age Concern, Hull
Funded by The Firebird Trust and Age Concern
For Age Concern, Hull
CD & booklet produced - 10 songs
 

Participant quotes:
 

“It’s been great, thanks. Come again… it’s been lovely.” - Rose Crittenden
 

“A great time had by all, sorry it’s all over.” - Shirley Booth
 

“So uplifting, a great experience, bright ideas, most enjoyable.” - Bernard Palmer.
 

“Inspiring, thought provoking… can we have more of the same? - Betty Barber
 

“Lots of fun & laughter; I really enjoyed your songs… hope you’ll come again.” - Audrey Green

 

 

‘Our Place’ aka ‘Woodlands & Wildlife’ (2005)
Songwriting and performance project
Hamsteels Primary School, Durham

 

 

‘Sing For Your Life’ (2004)
Songwriting, recording and performance project
Memorial Hall, Beverley
For ‘Coming of Age’, celebrating 21 years of Beverley & East Riding Folk Festival
Gary led a series of full-day workshops as Host Tutor (assisted by Jennie Beasty and Nick Stubbs) and arranged for the following internationally acclaimed singer-songwriters to each deliver a session as guest songwriter - Brendan Croker, Sid Griffin, Alistair Hulett (R.I.P.), and Karine Polwart
Some of the songs produced were performed at Beverley & East Riding Folk Festival on 18th June 2004 and some were recorded in a professional recording studio
CD & booklet produced - 9 songs
 

Participant Quote:
“I’m absolutely delighted with the track… it came out fantastic. I’m so pleased; I’m recording another of my songs to enter the BBC Radio 2 song contest. I’m also writing a musical for the professional stage. So you see the workshops really did inspire me.” – Chris Green

 

 

‘Into The Woods’ (2004)
Singing, movement, music and songwriting project
Molescroft Primary School, Beverley
For Music4U, York

 

 

‘Minster’ (2004)

A collage of music and dance youth project with Gary Miller as musical director
Performed in the gardens of York Minster

 

 

‘Hexham Riot’ (2003)
Songwriting commission (6 songs) based on the Hexham Riot of 1761
3 of the songs were performed at Hexham Market Place on 9th March 2003, the 242nd anniversary of the riot
One of these songs ‘Stand Fast, Stand Steady’ was later recorded as the title track of Gary’s 2005 album with Ralf Weihrauch

 

 

‘Radical Jack - The Musical’ (2003)

Drama, songwriting, Indonesian shadow puppetry and performance project with Gary Miller as musical director
For the National Youth Music Theatre
A series of workshops led to a live performance of the musical at Durham University
Booklet produced, including dialogue and 9 songs
 

“Thanks for everything, it’s been SO great. Thank you so much for help with my song.” - Rachel Murphy, age 17
 

“Gary, you are an absolute legend! Thanks for all your hard work and helping us put on such a BRILL show.” - Amy Suzanne Larcombe, age 15
 

“Thanks a lot for being such a star with all of us and for getting my song in the show.” - Emily Thompson-Worrell, age 13
 

“Gary, the week wouldn’t have been half as good without you – you’re a star!” - Claire Kilbride, age 16
 

“Gary - thanks for helping us out, we couldn’t have done it without you! I’ve had a great time, you’re an absolute legend.” - Elizabeth Griffiths, age 17
 

“Hey Gary, thanks so much. You’ve shown me so much.” - Francesca Salt, age 15
 

“Gary, you kick ass! I had a great time. I think this has been a great experience for everyone! You made it really special and I loved it all.” - Alyson McKenchie, age 14.
 

“Gary, you have made this SO fun. Thanks for everything.” - Sophie Elizabeth Forest, age 14.

 

 

‘This Village’ (2003)
Songwriting, poetry, creative writing & various cross-arts project
Rural schools

 

 

‘Family Matters’ (2003)
Song-suite based on several generations of Gary’s own family developed as a theatre project

 

 

'SoundLive’ (2003)
Music industry and performance project
Maltings Arts Centre, Berwick-Upon-Tweed
For The Princes Trust

 

 

‘Skins & Strings’ (2003)
Songwriting and music project for all ages
Ford Castle, Berwick-Upon-Tweed

 

 

 

 

“Cracking songs. As is often the case with Gary’s lyrics, there are some very poignant and atmospheric words that can be read on their own merit. All the songs show a good eye for gritty and earthy reality. Images, sympathies and genuine true life are painted with such a vast range of colours – why hasn’t Gary brought out a book of poetry?”
Dave W. Hughes, The Modern Dance, UK