A TRIBUTE TO SOPHIE MCGEORGE: A BEAUTIFUL AND RARE SPIRIT
I came across Sophie McGeorge when she entered the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition in January this year. The annual contest offers unsigned UK and Ireland-based acts of any musical genre the chance to compete to play on a main stage at the iconic festival. My task as one of 30 first round judges was to listen to an original song and watch a live video from over 200 different entrants and to pick just three to go through to the next stage. Sophie was in my assigned set of artistes; her striking voice and endearing sentiments won me over pretty well instantly. It was never in doubt that Sophie would be one of my three choices.
The song she entered was “Dreamrakers” which I remarked at the time was “quite simply a beautiful song, carefully crafted and wonderfully sung. Sophie has a rare vocal tone; her clarity and precision is matched by a soft emotive power.” Her accompanying live version of Kate Bush’s “This Woman's Work” captured on video while busking at Euston Station was meticulous yet so moving that it drew tears. The video clip continues to form a wonderful Kate Bush medley.
Though Sophie did not progress to the final of the competition, I remember her simple delight at being chosen as just one of 90 from over 6,000 entrants and her sincere appreciation of the high quality of her fellow ‘longlisters’. By then we were well into the spring lockdown and at the time she wrote about how she missed performing live:
“Playing live is greatly missed right now and it makes me feel quite empty without it. The last couple of years I have been on the National Railway Scheme busking at train stations, which I absolutely love. It is for sure hard work, but so rewarding and I really think it must be some of the greatest live experience you can perhaps collect as a musician. It builds up so much grounding with your music, as it is ever so full of challenges - never a dull moment!”
I had planned to see Sophie out and about busking one day and also said I hoped she would play at one of the occasional shows we put on here in Kingston under the aegis of Spring Grove Acoustic. I felt sure that Sophie would be greatly appreciated by our audience. Sadly, as we know too well, live music of this kind has been on a hiatus since mid-March and to my great regret neither of these things came to pass. We exchanged a couple more emails, but any further thoughts of live appearances were firmly on hold.
Other than playing live, Sophie’s main focus was on songwriting and she said she hoped to find a good publishing deal. She was extremely modest, having been signed to Sony Music at one stage of her career, and more than capable at holding her own in exalted company. Indeed, Sophie released music for many years through major and smaller record labels, from Sony and Cafe del Mar to Ministry of Sound and others, as Sophie Tusnelda, a stage name that she later took on formally by deed poll. She was originally born Sofie Maria Kierulff in Denmark, although then became Sofie Page when her mother later remarried.
Her earliest musical memory was aged 4 when she received a ‘mysterious tape from some family in England’ and discovered ABBA on it. Even at that young age, it was the moment that music took over and she began her escape into a world of creating songs. She would soon write poems and stories and in her teenage years started to develop her singing style. Sophie would go on to record a number of songs solo or in collaboration with ambient producers and artistes. This included work with the likes of Tau, Chris Zippel, Ganga and Trilucid. The latter association produced this stunning trance track, “Find You”.
Sophie moved to London from her native Denmark in 2016 to pursue musical opportunities here. She married Tristan McGeorge, a doctor, and became a loving stepmother to two children, Thomas and Jack. The couple met when Sophie began working over here at her instigation on her collaborative project, Drøm, (‘Dream’ in Danish) with Bristol-based composer and producer, Jonny Gunton. Drøm actually started gigging in Copenhagen but later played at several venues in London. The venture culminated in the release of an album, Volutus. You can hear the record in full on Spotify.
Sophie made her home in a quiet corner in North London, with a garden surrounded by sunflowers, an orange tree and frequented by a curious number of small birds which particularly delighted her. She was inspired by themes of nature, love and happiness as well as by artistes including Kate Bush, and latterly, Scott Matthews. Tragically, within a month or so of marrying, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her initial treatment, she relapsed in early 2018 some 18 months after her first diagnosis. By then it was clearly a terminal condition but she eventually stabilised on medication and hoped still to have some years left. It was a great shock to her family when she went in for a routine scan this March to find that she had deteriorated dramatically and was not able to access the treatment she needed due to the pandemic.
Sophie’s shift towards a gentle folk-inspired sound somewhat contrasted with the field of electronica she operated in for most of her musical career. As the disease progressed, the awareness of her impending death fuelled this change of direction. She found the inner strength to celebrate the happiness that she gained towards the end of her life, tempered by the poignant knowledge that it would be short-lived. She played live with the talented young Greek violinist Anastasia Vaina, a recent masters graduate from the Royal College of Music here. She also played with Anna Baker, the cellist on a number of her solo tracks and selected Drøm songs. Anna contributed to writing “Where Do My Dreams Go” with Sophie, a song which currently exists in demo form only.
Sophie ran her own small recording studio and was able to supplement her living from recordings and voice overs. She had built a wealth of experience in vocal production and processing and this is evidenced by the sheer quality of her ‘home’ recordings. There is a dream-like characteristic to much of her original work, most notably in the songs conceived over the past two years. Sophie saw dreams as a creative conduit where imagination meets hope and exploration. She had a clear affinity with the natural world and saw its curation and nurturing as a commonly shared destiny.
Sophie died at the age of just 46 in October this year. She bestows a legacy of beautifully emotive music that hopefully in its memory will find the audience her work so richly deserves. She leaves a young baby girl, Elinor; the completion of a dream to bring her own child into the world in the last months of her life.