Boxgrove Priory to host premiere of Sussex cantata
Entitled On Windover Hill; the music of the Long Man of Wilmington, the piece will be performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Harlequin Chamber Choir on Saturday, March 7 at 7.45pm.
Amy conducts the chamber choir in which Nathan sings.
“We are a SATB chamber choir and we have about 22-24 singers,” Amy says. “We like to sing a cappella works and also accompanied by piano or organ, though we are mainly a cappella. We like to do challenging works and take on some different works.
“I am quite new to the choir, but Nathan sings tenor in the choir and joined before I did, and that’s how the project started. He said ‘I am writing this piece. Would you like to sing it?’ He wanted to write something for community choirs but it will also appeal to chamber choirs and larger choirs.
“We will be joined for the world premiere by the RPO. Nathan has ideas that other choirs might like to take it up beyond that.”
From Blake to Belloc and Turner to Palmer, the curves and sweeps of the South Downs have inspired poets, painters, printers and writers for centuries. Now, Nathan, with support from the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust and Arts Council, has joined their number, spending three years researching and writing a nine-movement cantata based on the ancient hill figure the Long Man of Wilmington.
Standing boldly on the hillside overlooking the village of Wilmington in East Sussex, the Giant has been a source of mystery and myth for hundreds of years. The first drawings of the Long Man appeared around the mid-18th century, but it is thought he dates back even further.
In his choral and orchestral piece, Nathan presents the many theories and ideas put forward over the years. Using a range of ancient and modern texts set to music, he constructs a dialogue between the past and the present.
Accompanied by members of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the choir will sing words of the past, including those written in 550 AD and taken from the Book of Taliesin. Other movements will use words from more modern texts, which include lines by female Sussex poets Grace Pursglove and Amy Sawyer, who both wrote about the South Downs’ mystical call.
“Nathan is a conductor as well,” Amy explains. “We both play the piano and conduct and sing, but he has handed leadership of this work over to me now. It doesn’t happen terribly often that you have the composer of a piece in the choir, though I do know of choirs that have composers in their midst.
“But it is wonderful to have Nathan in the choir. If there is any query about a note or a phrase or a tempo, we can just say ‘What did you mean?’ or ‘Could we do this?’ He can make subtle changes. We can pull together our own preferred performance. All the details like articulation and colour and tonal colour, it is very exciting to be talking about. The whole process is that I am the musical director, but he is a singer, the composer and the creator.”
Special guests, journalist Cole Moreton, author Justin Hopper, poet Peter Martin and BBC presenter Emily Jeffrey will read extracts from texts that help to place the Long Man within his environment.
The evening will also see the first UK performance in more than 80 years of Wyndore by the neglected Sussex composer Avril Coleridge-Taylor (1903-1998).
Tickets are available from www.wegottickets.com/OnWindoverHill. For more information about the project go to www.castleymusic.com/OnWindoverHill