1 – The Artists

Two brilliant artists come together in the spirit of the Lunar Society….

A meeting of minds in this new creative collaboration.

Sarah Matthews is a professional folk musician and singer, playing the fiddle, viola, light percussion and tenor guitar.  A composer, improviser, song-writer and teacher, she is passionate and enthusiastic, and enjoys sharing her music and singing with others.   Dr Carl Chinn (Historian and BBC radio presenter) has said of Sarah: “Absolutely beautiful, spine-tingling!  To take such a powerful poem with such complex ideas … stunning!”

Maria Whatton is an award winning Storyteller who is renowned for her warm performing style and her ability to create atmosphere through the richness of language.  She was praised as “an exceptional professional” by Dame Beryl Bainbridge and Frank Cottrell Boyce said “In Maria’s hands, a story is a living, breathing thing.

“Making the Lunar Men” by Maria Whatton

A Storyteller’s perspective:

In creating “The Lunar Men” I have attempted to bring the great characters of the Lunar Society to life. Of course, I realised very early on in the crafting of this piece that it would be impossible to do justice to all 12 members of the Lunar Society, so I have had to be selective. However, my interest only grows deeper and perhaps at some point I will have the pleasure of making work about all of them. All their stories both personal and public are riveting.

Their world was so rich with invention, and colourful in its energy that I decided to introduce a painter into this one evening’s meeting. Joseph Wright, the artist, was a great friend of John Whitehurst and a patient of Erasmus Darwin. For me, Joseph Wright of Derby is not hailed enough as one of our greatest English painters. Spend a few hours studying his paintings in the beautiful Derby Art Gallery and you will not fail to be moved by his masterly skill at capturing the spirit of the sitter or the atmosphere of a landscape. The Lunar Society meeting which I have imagined in this piece is described through his eyes, through his vivid imagination and eye for detail.

I want to thank both Laura and Jane at Derby Museum and Art Gallery for allowing Sarah and I to spend time studying the collection and performing our piece pride of place in front of “The Orrery”.

The collection is a cultural asset to the people of Derby. These paintings describe a heritage that all residents of the area can be proud of. Here in the Midlands we have an exceptional collection of his work all in one place, but if you are interested in other examples of Joseph Wright’s work you can travel as far as Russia and America to see them.

I think it’s wonderful that there is a bit of Derbyshire (Matlock Tor) in Detroit and a bit of Dovedale by Moonlight in Ohio, thanks to Joseph Wright’s artistry. I am hugely relieved that we don’t have to travel that far however, to be able to be inspired by such a great collection as the one we have in Derby.

Both Sarah and I feel strongly that we want to capture through word and music the collaborative, pioneering, inventive and exciting nature of the Lunar Society’s strong friendships. It is clear to us that, quite simply, this group of people genuinely liked each other and had fun together. They spurred each other on, by a combination of healthy competitiveness, support and encouragement.

My research continues but I want to acknowledge the books, places and people that have inspired me. I have also collected here some of my favourite quotations from the Lunar Men themselves or by others that were close to them. These words informed my depictions and choices.  (See the Research and Reference, and Quotes from the Lunar Men pages for more details.)


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