THE PHOENIX CANTATA
Night Rider to the Long Man Harold Mockford
In January 2006 plans for a major new development in Lewes were exhibited in a huge warehouse due for demolition. Wenda Bradley and Christine Hall discovered that the site had once been the home of ‘The Phoenix Ironworks’ This realisation led them to set up the arts company, Artemis Arts and get Lottery funding to research the history of the company. Through the ‘Lewes Phoenix’ project (www.lewesphoenix.org), ex-workers were interviewed by teams of volunteers and a powerful archive of photographs and evidence was gathered. Nearly six years later people are still fascinated by the subject and family photographs and documents keep arriving.
The history of fire, water and iron shaped the landscape of Sussex, the centre of early iron working in Britain. The woodlands, streams and valleys supported the process but ironworking led eventually caused deforestation through the need for large quantities of charcoal before the advent of coke. From 1832 when the ironworks were established by John Every the company relied on coke and by the late nineteenth century its fabrications were being sent all over the UK and to Africa, Australia and the Far East.
The Phoenix Cantata has been was brought to life through the inspiration of the talented composer Helen Glavin. It expresses through music, the mystery and beauty of the South Downs and the people who made their lives there.
In an interview with Paul Austin Kelly (www.lewesclassical.com) Helen Glavin said “I was originally inspired to compose the Cantata when I listened to stories of ex workers from the Phoenix Ironworks in Lewes speaking at Lewes Town Hall as part of the Phoenix project. Their stories resonated personally as my father and his brothers had worked at an iron foundry in Dagenham when they first emigrated here from Ireland. As a child I heard stories of this inferno place and the unbearable heat. So I had an epiphany moment to write a choral work in Lewes Town Hall! That was the seed inspiration and from that source the idea developed to compose a people’s Cantata. I presented the idea to Artemis Arts who liked it and so the choral work project began.”
“The Cantata has elements of classical, folk/world and sacred music; there is also a jazzy bebop choral piece. It involves singers who range from experienced choir members to new singers learning by ear, a children’s choir and professional soloists. Without compromising I am composing pieces that are singable for new singers who don’t read music to more advanced pieces for the experienced choirs and soloists. It’s a wonderful opportunity to create a musical language for the Cantata. The cantata is still a work in progress, I am delighted that there has already been such a great response, this is the beginning……””
We have been fortunate that John Hancorn, the distinguished conductor and musical director, agreed to lead the development of the Cantata. His talent, expertise and commitment has been central to its development. John also brought in two of the other choirs he directs, The Paddock Singers and the East Sussex Bach Choir and we are privileged to have all these singers and musicians participating in these showcase performances.
One of the major achievements of the cantata journey has been the forming of
The Everyman Ensemble, a group of male singers that represents the working man. The group has established an individual character and includes men from all walks of life and experience, including ex-ironwokers and university students
Young talented singers will sing the solo parts
Oliver Hicks -Everyman Ensemble soloist
Daisy Brown-The Phoenix Bird- soprano
Thalia Knights mezzo
Freya Bailey Barker- soprano
We are grateful for the support and guidance of Katie Tearle and Amy Bere of Glyndebourne Festival Opera Education department, which has been invaluable. Glyndebourne Youth Opera performed a piece from the Cantata on stage at the opera house in November 2010.
We hope that you will take this opportunity to experience the wonderful music and singing in the two showcase productions during the Brighton Fringe Festival.
The Cantata is still a work in progress and Artemis Arts is seeking funding to support its development. If you would like to send a donation please go to www.localgiving/artemisarts
Christine Hall 01273 470376 firstname.lastname@example.org
Wenda Bradley, 01273 486595, email@example.com
For more information on the Phoenix Cantata