Whatever Love Is… exploring ‘the big L’ in words, music and song

On Saturday I spent a fine evening in the company of writer and poet Laura Mucha, pianist Alisdair Hogarth and tenor Andrew Staples. The three were performing a one-off piece, Whatever Love Is… as part of the ‘BathSongs’ series.

Rehearsals in progress

Launched by Bath Festivals in 2017, BathSongs is “a sumptuous mingling of words, music and song. Informal in style and performed in small and intimate venues, the series of six one-hour events covers a wide range of music from folk to classical Broadway.”

Whatever Love Is… draws on Mucha’s Human Connection project, in which she spent several years researching romantic love and relationships from every possible angle – from hard data and expert opinion to spontaneous interviews with ordinary people all over the globe.

“I travelled over a quarter of a million miles, interviewing people from 8-95 years of age on every continent of the world,” Mucha explains.

“I approached people in airports, shops, markets, cafes, restaurants, bars, hospitals, parks, galleries, libraries, museums, buses, trains, planes and ships. I interviewed a pro American football player by accident, a model who sat next to me on a plane and teenage hoodies making noise on a bus. People who were religious, atheist, agnostic, male, female, transgender, homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, single, married, divorced, widowed, with children, without children, pregnant, cheating, cheated on, entirely faithful.”

All of this makes for a very rich body of findings, from which Mucha cherry-picks a fascinating range of snippets as the basis for this show. Alongside her own commentary, she plays back recorded extracts from some of her interviews and intersperses these with poems from a range of writers including one of mine, ‘Winter in the Room’ (see 4 poems). Hogarth on piano and Staples on vocals finely illustrate the gamut of emotions being discussed with a range of deftly-chosen songs expressing everything from infatuation to lament.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m keenly interested in projects and performances that take poetry out of its traditional habitat and give it a bit of a twist and so this performance absolutely floated my boat. It was interesting, eclectic, emotive and original. It was also very inspiring and triggered a raft of ideas and questions that are now rattling around my in head and heart.

Fortunately, Mucha’s work will be published in the form of a book in due course and so I’ll get to spend some more quality time with her findings and musings. I’m really hoping that the book launch will be as creative as this!

Find out more about the Human Connection project at http://lauramucha.com 

You can also hear Laura Mucha, Alisdair Hogarth and Andrew Staples talking about the project with Sean Rafferty on Radio 3 – listen here on BBC iPlayer.

PS. The trio has now been invited to perform an extended version of the BathSongs piece in London in 2018, so if you didn’t catch them this time around keep an eye out for details.