The 21st September 2019 was a date which brings to a close a recording project that has taken almost two years to put in place, and it is a privilege to have such people involved; the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City of London Choir, conductor Hilary Davan Wetton, pianist Mark Bebbington, and four or the UK’s leading singers, Stephanie Corley, Marta Fontanals-Simmons, Ed Lyon, and William Berger.
Two works were recorded in the three sessions at Henry Wood Hall, in the morning a piece for piano and orchestra, under the title Silvered Night, and in the afternoon and evening sessions The Angry Garden, a work written and premiered in 2002 to highlight the issue of global warming. Composed from a libretto by poet and author Simon Rae, it was first performed at St. John’s Smith Square in support of the World Wildlife Fund.
Taking the latter first, I was first drawn to the issue of the environment in the early 1970’s when I had a place to study with the scientist David Bellamy - I always remember the interview for the Masters Degree, ‘we like to get our working week over by Wednesday lunchtime’ he said - I guess he was joking but it appealed to me as a student of those days. But changing to music as a career a few weeks later, those scientific issues never left me and saw their way into two major works, Age of Wonders, the work to celebrate the Darwin 200th anniversary, and The Angry Garden. But I do remember from that time of meeting David Bellamy, the hot topics were genetics and population, with the environment closely related. In 2002 when premiering the work there seemed little political and public awareness of the issues, and while this has changed drastically, I would say that little has changed in recognising the link between population and environmental damage - ‘more mouths, more meat, turn up the heat‘, fourth movement, The Angry Garden.
The first work recorded on the 21st was for piano and orchestra, Silvered Night. The piano part started its life as an angry response to seeing dignitaries and politicians at the Cenotaph on the day of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War One. It was the main item on the news that evening, followed by an announcement of a huge new Arms deal by the UK. So the piece began under the title of The Hypocrisy of War, but eventually resulted in a solo work for piano, Variations on Papaver Rhoeas, the work being written in the shape of the poppy (Papaver Rhoeas). But for this orchestral work I wanted to move away from World War One without losing its origins.