Ninebarrow : The Hour of the Blackbird

Before the world slid into roiling chaos, Folk duo Ninebarrow, Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardier, had planned a special home-county show on May 23rd at Dorset's Milton Abbey.

The gig was one of the most important they had booked for the 2020, designed as a collaboration with two renowned choirs, Hampshire's Hart Voices and Surrey's The Chantry Singers.

The date was inevitably abandoned because of Covid-19, but the cancellation sparked an ambitious idea for a lockdown project.

The duo also wanted to raise money for Mind, spurred by media reports citing a 50% increase in calls to mental health support lines during the early stages of the pandemic.

The two thoughts converged, and The Hour of the Blackbird is the result - a beatific Ninebarrow song with the simple lyrical message of spring renewal; recorded live by the duo, with fifty individual choir members then using mobile phones to add their voices to the mix.

It took sixty hours for producer Mark Tucker to stitch the final song (and video) seamlessly together - creating an uplifting single, which was then released to raise money for Mind during Mental Health Awareness Week (May 18-24).

Explaining why Hour of the Blackbird was chosen, Jay stated, '(The) song seems totally fitting for the current situation - it's about how male blackbirds will sing together during the afternoon as the days get longer, about banishing darker thoughts and finding happiness in life's simple things. Something we all need to do more than ever at the moment.'

The Hour of the Blackbird’s lyrics evoke the sense of hope that comes with the season;

Oh, the afternoon both calm and still
The hedgerow bare beneath the hill
Above the oak tree's lofty frame
Heavy clouds that threaten rain

But below that lonely darksome gloom
The early daffodils in bloom
From the holly bush above the throng
He greets them with his vernal song

From the other trees across the dell
A choir of voices starts to swell
And banish now the thought of rain
And hail the robin, King again!

The cause is hugely important - and has had instant support; an initial fund-raising goal of ?5,000 was reached in three days and has now been extended.

The song can be downloaded for free, and donations can be made, here