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Starting in 2014 in Lancaster at the Friends Meeting House Hugh, Dean and Ben have gathered papers, producers, partners, dots, songs, inspiration, choirs, lead-singers, musicians, speakers, amps, sound engineers, audiences, decor, printers, designers, tea bags, rehearsal rooms, emails and social media posts, press releases, ticket links, ticket fees, reviews, photos, recordings, satellite events, spare bedrooms, travel expenses, too much service station food to make always individual versions of Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas happen.

Since then they have visited Lancaster Priory, Torquay’s Spanish Barn with a blanket, St Michael’s C of E Primary Academy in Exeter, The Assembly Roxy in Edinburgh The Great Hall Dartington

As well as Jackie Oates, Iona Lane, Richard Evans and Billie Bottle they have welcomed, leaned on and cherished members of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Aubergines Family Orchestra, Dot Crotchet and the Raging Harmonies, The Unidentified Family Orchestra, The Choral Engineers, Off the Rails big band, Family Selection Box, Deep Cabaret, Turnstone, Burst Horns, Plainview. 

The concerts have been produced by Wils Wilson, More Music, Lancaster Arts City and Torbay Council. 

sufjan4xmas - string section
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HUGH NANKIVELL is a composer and social musician based in Bristol. He compulsively creates songs and tries to musically respond to every issue he confronts. Currently he is preoccupied with making music with, and for, the elderly and especially those with dementia. He also is at the forefront of intergenerational practise, primarily bringing the very young into care homes to make music together with elders.


Hugh has composed large-scale professional/community pieces for organisations including Opera North, Dartmoor National Park, UNESCO, The Barbican Theatre, The National Theatre of Scotland and on several large-scale commissions in Japan.


Hugh is the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Music Associate for Devon and that role is focussed on family orchestras and work in hospitals on using music as both a therapeutic tool and for happiness.


Hugh plays with the geographically awkward band Natural Causes and the Devon based Trio Of Men. He likes to track and musically reveal hidden aspects of local eccentrics and historical figures.


BEN McCABE plays drums, horn and sings backing vocals in Natural Causes, Deep Cabaret, Paddy Garrigan and the Stroller Priests and Kollega. He’s worked for 20 years at community music charity More Music and programmes gigs and festivals there as well as delivering creative music workshops with all ages. 


He’s the MD for Off the Rails big band - a creative jazz orchestra originally started by More Music that play original music as well as (often instant) arrangements of Fela Kuti, Bill Frisell, Bill Withers, Mulatu Astatke, Letta Mbulu and much more. 


DEAN SPEEDWELL TRACY BRODRICK has lived with the challenge of his name for many years. As a life long friend of Hugh he too compulsively creates songs under all and any circumstances. He has a qualification to paint from the RCA but his less solitary musical life has taken over. The last decade saw an increase in his work in education. He helped to create 3 little alternative educational projects in his vicinity (The Greenhouse, The Phoenix and Lumiar Stowford) where music was part of the core curriculum.


Dean was commissioned by Torquay Music Hub in collaboration with the BSO to write a Symphony For All in 2016. He has worked alongside Hugh on many projects including the Choral Engineers and with BSO visiting dementia wards with music and making drawings for a future publication on the subject. Dean mostly plays piano, accordion and bassoon. But he sings and strikes drums frequently. His long lived band is called EMPTY BOAT which features his daughter Maddy, the Brasilan singer Monica Vasconcelos, Steve Buckley, Oren Marshall, Maruis Rodrigues and others.


Since 1993 Dean has co directed PoopCreative, an NGO supporting the raising of awareness and funds to build water and sanitation projects in Mozambique particularly, where he has toured twice. He is a frequent visitor to Brasil where he engages in the musical and spiritual culture of the peoples of Amazonas.

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