Opened to the public in 2017, the Charterhouse is both a thriving almshouse and a stunning seven- acre site embracing seven centuries of remarkable lives, lived and lost.
Originally founded in 1348 during the Black Death, the Charterhouse is a hidden gem on the edge of the City brimming with extraordinary stories of contemplation, conspiracy and charity. From Tuesday to Sunday, there is free entry to the museum, chapel and shop, and the opportunity to discover the remains of the Carthusian cloister, the grand Tudor interiors and courtyards.
What an amazing history at Charterhouse! Centuries of generosity and empathy, charity and care.
The first thing you notice is the large open spaces, the historic stone architecture and the classical decor. Wood-panelled hallways lead to stone-floored chambers and a chapel, which was meant for residents of the almshouse. The old organ resides on the first floor overlooking signs that someone who was of note long ago is buried below the ground. Hymn books and pews are arranged in symmetrical, angular patterns from wall to wall. A small vestibule where the priest changes into robes houses the silverware for rituals and an electric piano signifies the occasional presence of modern choirs in rehearsal
I attended one such rehearsal to hear words, Latin or English, written long ago. So what of the connection to the people of our present age, that I sought for? An amazing find of the visitor's book opened up my imagination and respect for what Charterthouse means today. Different pen and pencil marks described different hands, of a huge variety of ages, and their various personal altruistic gestures. The requests "Please pray for...." ranged from neglected ponies at work to the victims of the Grenfell fire. I took the most universal prayer requests and immediately began thinking of an Indian raga I had learned in India to inspire compassion. I used also an Hindustani form called 'meend' which the voice is well suited to, in order to emphasise the heart that was so apparent in the visitor book. I had to be my own choir and practised singing incredibly low notes, which had to be recorded in the mornings as the voice reaches lower then. I did not use any effects such as pitch control on my voice and purposely went for an open format recorded as improvisations in long takes. A two piece harmony spanned to four in the chorus.
For the instrumentation I used The White Collar Choir voices as abstractions, resampled, and binaural field recordings I made in the space, such as the ritual silverware.
The melody and instrumentation I kept to the close-knit note range and repetitive format of a spiritual chant. I hope it is moving in some way.
‘Charterhouse’ by Fari Bradley.