Staying in Venice since March, singer songwriter Tess Callaghan has come to know some of the places still strongly associated with Byron to this day, along the Gran Canale, the swimming area in Lido, the Armenian monastery on the Island of San Lazzaro, a few of the houses he frequented. It therefore naturally struck Tess as a good location to film a Byron-themed video for her song “He Walks In Beauty”, setting Byron’s exquisite poem to indie pop.
Tess had encountered the poem through the years, hearing potential for a simple melody to showcase the words. It is likely that Byron intended the poem to be sung – it featured up front in his collection ‘Hebrew Melodies’.
After circulating an acoustic demo, last September Tess and fellow London based musicians recorded the full band version near Crystal Palace (Perryvale studios, producer/owner Pat Collier), production choices (electric guitar arpeggio, Barrie Cadogan, Harpsichord, Ross Stanley) seeking to evoke imaginings of early 19th Century drawing rooms, with the Romantics rubbing more than shoulders and exchanging radical ideas. With lead vocal changing the subject from ‘she’ to ‘he’ and harmonies in place, the track was completed.
While scoping locations for filming, Tess was lucky to run into local (Treviso) cinematographer, Nicolo Grasso, equally enthusiastic about making the video. Tess kept an eye open for possible Byrons, approaching a young man in the Venice Biennale, who got cold feet, but mentioned an actor friend who may be interested. Enter Byron number 1, Francesco, also trained in dance, used to beautiful effect in the video’s outro, after the punk green goggles scenes (said goggles available from all good Venice tourist stalls!).
Tess was arranging for her quick ink sketch of Byron to be printed onto a poster when a second potential Byron walked past. Tess gave chase, assuring the printers she would be back (she returned – the poster is in the video and thumbnail), and Bamba, Byron number 2, was found.
In 90 degree heat Tess, Nicolo, assistant Alessandra and the two Byrons shot the video over two days, one day for each Byron, Tess’ singing shots squeezed into day 2. Tess and Nicolo completed the edit a week or so later.
Tess likes to think Byron would have appreciated the song and video, with his love for song and his sense of image, playfulness and humour. As a figure who had the courage of his convictions, walking the walk, Tess has also admired him through the noise of his personal assignations to his work ethic, prolific writing talent and poetic gift. A gift which, at its best, moves and reframes, communing on a genuine and relatable level with the reader. His consistent championing of self-determination, collective action, the arts and culture set an example ever more relevant today. Onward in beauty he continues to walk, in this video, with a pop spring in his step…
Watch the Video here: