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Response to 'Orkney', Islands on the Edge series, NWR97

With reference to John Harrison's description of 'a Thatcher-era scheme to bring Orkney into the modern age by creating a uranium mine' [NWR97, out now), Manchester-born Peter Maxwell Davies' main musical contribution against uranium-mining, his symphonic cantata 'Black Pentecost', has words from George Mackay Brown's Greenvoe. Yellow-Cake Revue [to which John mentions Maxwell Davies had contributed two piano works] was partly humorous: how could it not be, when premiered by the immortal Eleanor Bron? But 'Pentecost' aims higher - or should we say deeper? - and was duly premiered in the RFH during 1982 by the Philharmonia under Simon Rattle. One of its many original moments is when a singer has to scream the megalomania of the whole capitalist system: musically brave and of course long overdue.

John Harrison's Islands on the Edge series continues with Spitsbergen in NWR99 (March 2013)


previous blog: Promising Starts
next blog: In Her Element at Penfro


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