Grace will lead me home starts with a hymn, Amazing Grace and our first step as musicians is to play it. In March 2023 I was joined by Angeline Morrison and Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne to spend a few days in Dartmouth House in Olney. It was originally home to the Earl of Dartmouth, the man who gave newton his first clerical posting.
We researched Newton's life in Olney, his involvement in the slave trade and the abolitionist movement. We played and wrote music and we filled our heads and hearts with stories that will be alchemised into songs over the following couple of months.
On Friday 23rd June Angeline and Cohen will be running a workshop for the Fusion Choir, a children';s choir from Queens Park in Bedford and then we will join the Invisible Folk Club Band for a concert in the Courtyard of the Cowper and Newton Museum on Saturday 24th June 2023. (tickets via the museum.)
Photo here and below by Ian Yarwood
Pictures of the Invisible Folk Club Band below by Matt Fleming
Grace will lead me home is a wide ranging project. We mark the 250th anniversary of the writing of Amazing Grace and explore the life of its writer John Newton.
We have recorded interviews with Tom Jones (pictured by Chris Madeley) on Newton's life. We talked to Marylynn Rouse of the John Newton Project about his faith and to Martin Clarke of the OU about the evolution of the melody. When he was young John Newton was the captain of a ship that traded slaves and later in his life he was an abolitionist. We talk to James Walvin about slavery. And we talked to Judy Collins on sining this great hymn. Each of these is a separate podcast available on most streaming services or via www.invisiblefolk.com .
We also wanted to think about what impact the Transatlantic Slave Trade might have on today's society. We spoke to three people of Caribbean descent to hear their experiences. Cohen Braithwaite Kilcoyne, Sharon De Leonardis and Pea Stepney.
Our museums, libraries and research institutes shape the past into stories that we equate to the lives we live today and so they can influence the way we understand difficult issues like slavery. We spoke to three heritage professionals to hear about the challenges they face and the ways in which they tell us our story. We spoke to Lydia Saul of the Higgins Bedford, Amanda Molcher of the Cowper and Newton Museum and Sally-Anne Huxtable who was the head curator of the National Trust.
You can find these on streaming services including Spotify and Apple Music and if you subscribe to the Invisible Folk Club channel you will never miss a future episode. There will be more podcasts to come including Jo Hudson-Lett and more music.
The man in the frame is John Newton and late in 1772 he wrote the words for Amazing Grace. It was the hymn for the sermon he gave on New Year's Day 1773 at St.Peter and St.Paul's in Olney. He wrote a lot of hymns while he was Curate in Charge there and with contributions by his friend the poet William Cowper created The Olney Hymns, a collection that became very popular, very quickly. The tune that we associate with Amazing Grace was added later in America.
To mark the 250th anniversary of the writing of Amazing grace I wrote some music for some of the Olney Hymns and recorded them with Diana Stone, David Gunawardana, Alan Garmonsway, Annette Burrows and Bob Templeman under the name of The Invisible Folk Club Band.
This album is now available on all streaming services and as a CD.
We played at the Cowper and Newton Museum on Saturday 27th August 2022.
We will to be playing there again next year as part of a bigger event
Invisible Folk are producing a programme called Grace will lead me home in partnership with the Cowper and Newton Museum and Arts Council England to mark the 250th anniversary of the writing of Amazing Grace.