THE PHOENIX CANTATA
A new choral workinspired by the people, the history and legacy of the Phoenix Ironworks in Lewes. To be performed initially in the existing foundry space where once molten metal was made, fires burned and men toiled in white heat. The Phoenix Ironworks and the people who worked there are linked to an elemental and mythic landscape. From the Iron Age and down through the centuries, metal and fire have played a part in the lifeblood of Lewes. There is the legend of Gil the Giant hurling an iron hammer from Mount Caburn. At nearby Glynde is Gil’s Grave, a barrow in which pottery and iron were found. From the Neolithic Gil to the Viking invaders working gold and silver, from the Christian martyrs burnt at the stake to Bonfire, there are rich sources from which to create this choral odyssey.
The Cantata is a multimedia work with the main emphasis on live choral singing and instrumental playing. The use of pre-recorded tracks and ambient foundry sounds, at designated times within the piece will contribute to the sonic textures. Also, projected images of fire, iron and steel integrated into the performance will enhance and create a contemporary audio/visual experience.
With an original text based on legends, folk culture, archives and contemporary oral history, the Cantata will be divided into 5 distinct musical sections on the possible themes.
1) From Field to Furnace
Each section will last approx 15 mins, the total work lasting about 1 hr 15 mins (1 hr 30 mins with an interval).
With the strong tradition of choral singing in Lewes and Sussex, the Cantata has the potential to be an inclusive and regenerating musical project in the community. Also there is strong educational potential - the Cantata can provide stimulating project material for schools.
Statement by Composer Helen Glavin
“My aim in composing the Cantata is to create a compelling, dramatic choral work with a rich vocal sound palette, strong rhythmic passages and contrasting lyrical sections. The Cantata embraces epic themes, by composing music that is both melodic and tonal and enriched with modal/ harmonic variation and dissonance, I would seek to create a musical language heightened by the uplifting, transformative power of the human voice.”
1) A main choir of mixed voices (sopranos, altos, tenors, basses), and 3 soloists.
A medium size chamber orchestra including 2 percussionists. comprised of local musicians from an existing orchestra / ensemble, supplemented by professional musicians.
With the narrative themes suggested the cantata structure can be divided into sections for the various groups to work on separately, combining together to make the whole piece.
The Phoenix Cantata will give voice to an important industrial period in Lewes, linking mythological and elemental themes. It will pay homage to the past and celebrate the cultural life and enduring spirit of the community in the 21st century.
HELEN GLAVIN – Composer and Writer