~ June 2013
Our most ambitious national performance project, A LITTLE BOOK OF MONSTERS, draws to a close for this year in a short tour of the South West, with two very different performances at Bath International Music Festival and Welsh National Opera.
Commissioned in 2011 with funding provided by the PRS Foundation’s Beyond Border’s scheme, we began in Orkney’s midsummer evening light that keeps the crowds up all night during the St Magnus International Festival. Almost 300 children took boats, planes and buses to join us in Kirkwall for the premiere.
Community and school projects have always been a staple part of St Magnus Festivals’ programme throughout its 35-year history. Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen’s Music, created numerous accessible and fun music theatre projects for the local primary schools. Although Max is no longer at the artistic helm, this tradition continues and we were proud to honour the spirit of Max’s work with our suite of monstrous songs.
From here our tour took us to the corners of the UK; to Deal Festival in Kent; to The Sage Gateshead; to Edinburgh’s Usher Hall with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra; and to South West for the final two performances in Bath and Cardiff.
We worked with almost 1,400 children between the ages of 8-14, with their teachers and choir leaders, with professional orchestras and our own fantastic chamber group Love Music Ensemble, and built up a valuable network of contacts and supporters across the country.
A LITTLE BOOK OF MONSTERS is an ambitious project that requires effort, imagination and the tireless dedication of teachers and schools to pull it off. Matt Harvey’s words are famously memorable but they constantly twist and turn in the mouth like a fizzy gobstopper. The music doesn’t sit into simple song forms but like the words is constantly on the move, and full of surprises.
After Orkney, a few of our other memorable highlights are the exquisite singing from the small but fabulous WNO singing club, the monsters parade challenging the elegant and restrained city streets of Bath with its colour and making their noisy presence felt in a packed out Bath Abbey, the ghoulish and gloriously dressed up chorus in the north east, Edinburgh’s packed Usher Hall raising the roof for the city’s primary schools choir, and the brassy semi-improvised overtures that opened the performance in Deal.
We know this work is important because you tell us. So you won’t have heard the last of the monsters, and we have other massed performance projects in planning. Like watching our fearless trombone player John Kenny (Reginald Perrin style) disappearing into the sea off the pebbly shore in Deal, we knew he would come back, and so will the monsters songbook. Everyone needs a monster to remember.
A great big thanks to all our brilliant partners, orchestras, festival friends, colleagues, schools, funders, and most of the little singing monsters themselves for your hard work and fun. We loved it.
With thanks to Bath International Festival for the use of their images of the Bath performance and the Monster parade.