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A Fenland Symphony - painting a Cambridge picture through music

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A Fenland Symphony is a musical composition intertwining interviews and music to tell a unique story of life in Cambridge.

A Fenland Symphony artwork
A Fenland Symphony artwork

Produced and composed by Cambridge musician Chris Bradbury, the 11-minute work was recorded at Saltwell Studio near Huntingdon.

Speaking from Finland where he has been spending Christmas with his partner, who is Finnish, Chris said: “In 2019, I won a commission to a new scheme called New Creative, which is a talent development scheme set up by the BBC and the Arts Council.

Behind the scenes on A Fenland Symphony
Behind the scenes on A Fenland Symphony

"They were giving out commissions for a whole range of different projects. I pitched an idea about a short composition centred around interviews that I gave to people in Cambridgeshire, and I won the commission – which was amazing.”

Chris, 30, added: “The project is 11 and a bit minutes long – we had a maximum time of 15 minutes so we had to come up with something within that time.

“I spoke to six interviewees in the end. The music moves around the interviews and the stories that people are giving us.

“I really loved a lot of the content we got from people. It paints a very alternative picture of Cambridge. I think a lot of people have quite specific images that come to mind when they think of Cambridge.

“One of my interviewees put it really eloquently, about how people often think of the university and they think punting... but for those of us that live in Cambridge, there are whole communities and whole worlds that go on.”

Chris, who was born in Ely and studied music production at Cambridge Regional College, had some help with music composition from fellow musician, Chris Pepper, who owns Saltwell Studio.

Musician Chris Pepper who helped Chris Bradbury with A Fenland Symphony. Picture: Rydian Cook
Musician Chris Pepper who helped Chris Bradbury with A Fenland Symphony. Picture: Rydian Cook

“We recorded all the music within Cambridgeshire; between us we’ve got a really nice mix of core acoustic and electronic instruments,” he explained.

Chris said that he and the other Chris have worked together, on and off, on a whole range of projects over years.

“We used to work with a recording studio in Cambridge called The Hub,” he said. “It’s gone now.”

Chris Pepper working on A Fenland Symphony
Chris Pepper working on A Fenland Symphony

Chris, who says that he spoke to all the interviewees for “about an hour” each, believes that this kind of thing – looking at Cambridge in a different way and celebrating this through music – has been long overdue.

“I have always thought so... For me, from a musical aspect, I’d always been drawn to recorded dialogue used in a slightly alternative way.

“As well, I think Cambridge and Cambridgeshire are always changing – people are always coming and going, but there’s always a specific image of Cambridge, especially from the outside.”

A Fenland Symphony is set to be broadcast on the Gemma Cairney show on BBC Radio 6 Music on January 4 at 2am, and will then be available on BBC Sounds. Chris also hopes to get the piece up on streaming sites.


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