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Brett involved in new project to be broadcast in March

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

Photo by Kirsten McTernan

We're delighted to announce that Brett has been involved in an exciting new project with award-winning British conductor Charles Hazlewood and the Paraorchestra. Brett and Charles have put together Death Songbook which is a stunning 9-song setlist featuring an 11-piece ensemble of musicians from the Paraorchestra, Adrian Utley [Portishead] on guitar and Seb Rochford on drums. You might be familiar with Seb from Brett's last solo album 'Black Rainbows'. And also featuring special guest and friend, Nadine Shah who duetted on 2 songs with Brett.

Photo by Kirsten McTernan

"This was such a joyous project to happen amidst the gloom of January. I’d loved Nadine’s work since I heard Fool and she and I had spoken about doing something together for ages as had me and Charles who I had also greatly admired from afar. For this all to happen against the odds with those wonderful musicians from Paraorchestra, plus the talents of Adrian Utley and Seb Rochford, was just so lovely." - Brett Anderson.

An exquisite songbook featuring delicate new versions of songs about death; the death of love and of loss, and transcendence. Filmed in mid-January this year under the disquiet of the third COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, in the vast emptiness of the Donald Gordon stage, Wales Millennium Centre; Death Songbook reminds us that music is our greatest friend in bleak times; inviting us to crouch around a candle and meet our sorrow head-on, comforting, nourishing, and uplifting.

In a journey through the melancholy and euphoria of loss, this  acoustic set –

contrary to Paraorchestra’s bold, loud, and typically electronically influenced or amplified output -

celebrates a multiplicity of song styles and song writing, moods and textures through an unusual combination of instruments, for a spectral, ethereal soundscape. Ancient instruments like Dulcimer, handbells and recorders sit aside Wurlitzer piano, alto flute and heavily processed vibraphone; creating warmth, depth, space - and comfort.

“It has been pure unmitigated joy putting Death Songbook together with Brett and Paraorchestra, if that isn’t a contradiction! I am British after all, and I’d say melancholia is our defining national characteristic: British people feel comfort in melancholy. Songs about death, the death of love, loss, anxiety, loneliness, they make us feel transcendent - and in a period of global anxiety, that’s a real balm.” Charles Hazlewood, Artistic Director of Paraorchestra.

After careful consideration, we have decided to share the setlist with you. It's always a difficult one to know what to do but after discovering the setlist for myself I have to admit my excitement has intensified and my imagination has been fired up.

Photo by Kirsten McTernan

Set list

The Killing Moon - Echo and the Bunnymen

Unsung - Brett Anderson

Nightporter – Japan

The End of the World - Skeeter Davis

He’s Dead – Suede

Wonderful Life - BLACK

The Next Life - Suede

Holes - Mercury Rev

My Death - Brel (David Bowie version)

This rich set - amplified by the diversity and virtuosity of Paraorchestra musicians in new arrangements by composer Charlotte Harding - will be broadcast online by BBC Cymru Wales

across the weekend of 6th – 7th March 2021 as part of a wider digital festival of music and comedy titled GŴYL 2021. Unfortunately, the BBC have not confirmed yet exactly when they will broadcast the project on the weekend itself. We will update you as soon as this is confirmed. This event will be FREE to watch.

“It was incredibly challenging for so many reasons. An orchestra wants nothing more than to be close, as tightly packed as possible to find that collective sound. So, to be spaced out 2.5 metres away from each other playing socially distantly is hard. And of course, it’s a

massive challenge to play such a set with no live audience, music doesn’t exist in a bubble, it’s an act of love and of communication. You would usually get a huge volume of emotive push back from an audience in such a set, and to have that whole element, that dimension, missing – really makes it more difficult to do, and to do with meaning.”

Charles Hazlewood.

About Paraorchestra

Re-inventing the orchestra for the 21st century.

Paraorchestra is the world’s first large-scale integrated virtuoso ensemble of professional disabled and non-disabled musicians.

Their mission is to redefine what an orchestra can be. They see it as an extraordinary and perfectly synchronised body of instruments that draws on the tradition of centuries but is enriched and expanded by the talents, the instruments and the zeitgeist of the 21st century.

The visible participation of talented disabled and non-disabled musicians playing old and new repertoire, that includes analogue, digital or assistive instruments alongside traditional

acoustic ones, is a step-change in the world of orchestral music. This new ‘breed’ of orchestra belongs at rock festivals just as much as in a concert hall; reaching the broadest range of


Their Artistic Director, Charles Hazlewood, has always been drawn to developing work that can reach out to the widest range of audiences. This unique collaborative approach to high-

octane music-making is challenging worldwide perceptions of the status of disabled musicians in classical performance, and of classical music itself.

“We didn’t just see something. We heard something. We were immersed in something truly extraordinary….

Paraorchestra should be applauded for having something truly original to say about what orchestras can be. It is a demonstration of how we can move forward.”

Sir Nick Serota, Chair, Arts Council England on The Nature of Why

Huge thank you to Jonathan Harper for providing the full details of the project and to Kirsten Mcternan for all of the photos.

Thank you to everyone involved in making this project happen. As stated above, this event will be free to watch. In due course we will let you know how you can donate to this worthwhile charity.

Lastly, a huge thank you to Brett for being the incredible person he is and for bringing us some much needed light during these testing times.


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