My latest project has been working with an old chinese
text called the Wumenkuan,known better in its japanese form as The
Mumonkan, and in english as The Gateless Gate.It was put down in the
13th century and is a collection of spiritually enlightening stories
(kung-ans, or koans) associated with Buddhism. Its purpose is not really
simply the telling of stories - but to draw in the reader or listener -
to make them a part of it, and to take them somewhere they might
otherwise never be able to go. I've long been fascinated by this strange
text, and have used it as a springboard to put some songs together. I
was determined not to get caught up in zen-speak or eastern ways of
expression.The songs that emerged were a wide jump clear of all that -
usually they are set in the modern day,in everydaylife,in places like
Leeds and Sheffield.
Review of first live performance of The Gateless Gate:-
Intrigued by the title,I went along to the premiere of Gordon Tyrrall's new show.It proved to be a fascinating experience which led me into ancient china and the wonderful stories which emerged from that culture.These are stories which not only entertain and amuse but also provoke thought and challenge the hearer to take on the viewpoints of different characters to learn about themselves.His storytelling technique is relaxed and absorbing.What Tyrrall has done with the stories, however, is highly original.He has transformed the texts into songs which are set in modern day yorkshire and transferred the characters from china into people we can recognise in the street, such as a girl who is adamant she will not go out with a burglar (which also nods towards the "False Knight On The Road" and "The Cruel Sister", a firm of taxi drivers, a musician, and many others.Given Tyrrall's gift for inventing haunting tunes, as already demonstrated in his John Clare project and his work on Shakespeare's sonnets, combined with his lyric-writing skills, this show is a gem which deserves to be heard more widely.Tyrrall narrates the tales as a preamble to each song, allowing the juxtaposition to startle and delight.
Angela Topping 2011