Cayos Music presents
by Shane Cullinan
Text, music and orchestration by Shane Cullinan
Conductor: Mark Summerbell
Narrator: Frances Barber
Soprano: Claire O’Brien and
Cor Anglais: Jessica Mogridge
St James’s Piccadilly
28th and 29th May
A review by Marion Drew for EXTRA! EXTRA!
It is evening; we are in a city square, witness to a tragedy unfolding as a mother struggles towards her son who lies dying, knifed to death, a young man in his prime. As the dreadful slow minutes pass, in her agony she recalls fragments of his life and hers, they seem to take form right there about her on the wet cobble stones. All around her the music swirls like the wind in the square, the strings echoing the turbulence of her mind, moments of disbelief swelling into rage, and dropping away into desolation, the plaintive sound of the cor anglais lamenting with her the passing of that most precious of things, her child.
Inspired by that compelling symbol of Christian faith, the pieta moment when Mary cradles the dying Christ, this very moving piece transcends time and place and calls powerfully down through the ages to modern mothers and their grieving over the cruel and callous waste of life on today’s city streets.
The Pieta was staged in oratorio style, in the perfect setting of the beautiful St. James’ church in the centre of London. The backdrop was the stained glass window depicting Christ on the cross through which the fading light of the day falls.
Take the cross upon the hill … and the knife there on the wet stones… cut me pieces from it to make a frame in which I can lay him, the mother demands, and Shane Cullinan has fashioned a work to do justice to her plea. The combination of sung arias, and parts for the cor anglais against the background of a symphony of strings does indeed provide a fitting frame for her story. Mark Summerbell conducted the string orchestra, including harp, in a beautifully measured way, the timing throughout the piece was impeccable.
The voices of the three principal performers, Frances Barber as the narrator, the soprano Claire O’Brien and Jessica Mogridge playing cor anglais were beautifully complementary and skillfully interwoven into a performance which was visually evocative, as well as musically captivating. Clare O’Brien has a sweet, rich voice that blended beautifully with the almost mellow sound of the cor anglais, the sound as a whole rising up into the church in melodies that were richly melancholic. Frances Barber put her heart and soul into her narration and in its setting, this work could easily have been read as a powerful plea for an end to the senseless waste of life in cities across Britain.
St James’s Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL
28th and 29th May at 8pm
Tickets £15 in advance, £20 on the door
Box Office 08700 600100
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