EP Review: Gifts From Crows – Northern Film Orchestra Sessions Vol. I

Regular readers will know the name Gifts From Crows. It’s the performance name of Chester-based neoclassical composer Richard Lawrence – someone who has featured a lot on York Calling over the past few months. His latest release is a three-track collaboration with the Northern Film Orchestra.

By Graeme Smith

Northern Film Orchestra Sessions Vol. I features orchestral versions of pieces from Richard’s album Holding A Thought Forever – As Nature Returns, No Place In This World and Remembering Who and What We Are. Having recently reviewed the album, I thought I knew these tracks well, but the orchestral versions give them a new life.

The three pieces were recorded at Stoller Hall in Manchester during the coronavirus lockdown. As such there is no audience, giving the recordings an intimate feel – as if they are being performed just for us. At the time, the orchestra hadn’t had a chance to perform together for four months and you can sense their zeal to play.

As Nature Returns feels bold and triumphant compared to its contemplative piano version. No Place In This World opens with mournful strings which unfold into a determined rhythm before diving deep into a melancholic valley. The piece comes with a video which you can watch below.

The collection closes with the introspective Remembering Who And What We Are. The reimagined version still has Richard’s piano melody at its heart but waves of quivering strings provide texture. The piece swells to its climax with thundering percussion and lively woodwind.

If you’ve enjoyed Holding A Thought Forever like I have, then you’ll be pleased to know that Richard is planning two more sessions with the Northern Film Orchestra where we will be no doubt be treated to more orchestral versions of tracks from the album. There is also a plan for a live concert performance of the whole album. Fingers crossed for that one! In the meantime, check out the complete Vol. I below.