It isn’t often that the Isle of Portland is completely still. It’s a breezy place, verging on the gale force much of the time, but on this particular evening it fell quiet for us. I had visited the Memory Stones a few weeks earlier and instantly knew that I had to persuade the other members of the Island Voices Choir to come and sing here. So here we were.
This remarkable place on the lip of an old Portland stone quarry is an art installation, a gateway and an amphitheatre, and not long completed. The stones are still raw white and fresh, and each has a dual significance – in alignment to the sun at different seasons, and relating to Portland’s history, both natural and man-made. It’s a remarkable idea. Hannah Sofaer, the artist responsible, came along to take pictures.
This place already has atmosphere, but when the choir lined up in that still sunset and launched into our song Portland Stone, the great blocks looming over us suddenly had… presence. I can’t think of a better word. Their individuality became clear. They were part of the place, and so were we. I had thought from the first time I saw the Memory Stones that this song was made for them, but I hadn’t expected the connection to be so profound. I for one found it very moving.
The only way to improve on this wonderful moment, for me, was for us to sing Island Voice. And we did. I wrote the lyrics for this twelve years ago when both the Island Voices Choir and my writing career were taking their first baby steps. We’ve sung it many times since in all sorts of places but it never seemed so right as it did in this place. “If only there were songs in stone…” I wrote, all those years ago. Well, just for a moment, with the blessing of the Memory Stones, there were. It was pure magic.