Shadorma: Blue Fire

Look back on
That first rehearsal:
Slow, halting,
Bows like boats’ masts in a storm,
Brows and lips drawn tight.

A long term’s
Project, building up
Note by note
Bar by bar,
Finding their way in, feeling it
In fingers, feet, heart.

One week left
And decision time:
Fast or slow?
Yes or no?
Play the notes, or the music?
Be safe or sorry?

Concert night.
Packed to the rafters.
They walk in,
Take their seats.
Silence. Bows rise as one. Hold.
One two three breathe in

A shiver
Down my back. Throat tight.
Fiddles soar
Cellos growl
Breathless semiquaver runs.
A blue fire blazes.

Three and off.
Stand, bows held aloft.
The room roars
And my heart
Sings like Appalachia
On a bright spring day.


On Saturday evening, my daughter played violin in a concert with the String Orchestra run by our magnificent County Music Service. The highlight was the Appalachian-style Blue Fire Fiddler by the American composer and conductor Soon Hee Newbold. They’ve been working on it since Christmas, but even just a week ago, the teachers weren’t sure it would be ready. It was. Two days later, it still makes me hot and cold all over just thinking about it. Magical, glorious, wonderful stuff. N.

9 thoughts on “Shadorma: Blue Fire

  1. This made me smile, it must be wonderful to hear her play, I bet you were proud 🙂 I shall google up the music! And you have found your way in the Shadorma, you have really mastered that form! x

  2. This is fabulous Nick! A great poem, and what a wonderful experience for you to hear your daughter play this. It sounds like some challenge; its a beautiful piece of music, and brought goosebumps to me so I can imagine how it affected you, proud dad! 😊 X

    • Oh, I can’t tell you, Christine. I can feel myself welling up even now. What made it doubly, triply emotional is that, despite the fact that there were probably 200 kids taking part, and 500 people in the audience, the Music Service is facing a 50% cut in its budget. All the instrumental teachers (who are simply the most inspiring, talented and dedicated people you could ever hope to meet, anywhere) are having to reapply for their jobs after Easter – and unless there’s a drastic change of heart at County Hall, a third of them are going to be made redundant. Even worse, the reduced budget could make the Service ineligible for Arts Council funding as well, so it may eventually shut down altogether. All in the name of saving roughly what the leader of the County Council gets paid every year. It makes me so angry and upset I can hardly even write it down. But anyway, what a day it was. N.x

  3. Nick, when you write like this, telling a story and compressing words into music and fire, there is no better poet in the land. Music always moves you. I’ve got years of experience with your poetry to help me figure that out, and this particular spare form seems to really be something you have mastered. You are so close to your daughter too, and the combination of music, daughter, and tight language overflowing with description results in a really special poem. This is top flight work.

    • Thank you, Tom. I’ve always revelled in your description of me as a ‘sonneteer’, but I’m starting to feel I’m as much a ‘shadormer’ these days, too! It’s a form that really appeals to my professional instincts in its clarity and economy. And then to use it to describe something as profound and emotionally charged as music this feels pleasingly subversive. More than a week on and I still feel choked just thinking about the concert; and the Blue Fire Fiddler is still blazing in my mind like sunshine over the fields. It was my pleasure and privilege to share the moment with you all. N.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.