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Frozen river chimes make the coolest music around

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: December 07, 2012

  • INSPECTION: Chris Leonard and Terje Isungset check out the ice xylophone. Picture: Mike Southon. Ref: BNMS20121130B-011_C

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Fish merchant Chris Leonard has created the ultimate instrument for chill-out music – a xylophone made of ice.

It was made using frozen Torridge river water for a unique concert in Appledore, North Devon.

Chris, 60, runs CJ Leonard Ltd in Appledore which deals in fishing by-products such as bait.

But last month he was distracted from his normal work when he was asked to design an ice instrument for Norwegian experimental composer Terje Isungset.

Chris, who is also a scientist, was approached for the project by the concert's organiser, Beaford Arts.

He said: "I was more than happy to help and thought it would be beautiful to create, although strange.

Chris started to experiment with various ways of making a xylophone from ice, but said not all of them worked.

He said: "I was given a remit of making ice that would make some sort of noise.

"I knew I would need to make ice blocks, so initially I froze water in a wooden trough.

"But they continuously broke, so in the end I started using small drainpipes. I put part of a Lucozade bottle at the end to act as a stopper and keep the pipe watertight."

Chris said he experimented with fresh water and salt water. He found the salt water made the ice mushy, so he used water collected from the River Torridge, near Torrington.

"I then got the individual chimes out of the drainpipes by putting a hot blower in front of them and slowly pushing the ice through.

"I made a wooden frame, with bits of leather to suspend the seven ice chimes from. I had to drill a hole in the top of the chime, which didn't affect the ice as long as the drilling was steady."

Chris made each chime one by one and took the seventh out just a day before the concert. He then waited for Terje himself to alter the chimes into different lengths.

Chris also made an ice box for crushed ice to be kept in, which the musician used as an instrument during the concert by rustling his hands in it.

The xylophone was primarily used for audience participation and Chris bought two types of mallets with which to play it.

He also made tea light holders out of ice which had leaves and ferns frozen in them. They were placed along the path on the approach to the church, where the event was held.

Mark Wallace, director of Beaford Arts, said: "Ice Music was our fastest selling event this season, and quite possibly our fastest selling event yet.

"The baptist church was full to the brim – we were turning people away at the door.

"Terje Isungset's Ice Music was mesmerising. The addition to the Norwegian ice instruments of the River Torridge ice chimes was a very special moment.

"I think everyone who heard them, or had a chance to play them afterwards, might think differently when they look at the river from now on."

Chris said one chime broke on the night, proving how fragile the ice was, but everything else had gone to plan.

He added: "The music had a beauty I wasn't anticipating, I was very surprised by the sound and all ages seemed to get involved on the night."

See a video of the ice chimes in action at www.thisisnorthdevon.co.uk

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