New Oratorio to use Shelagh Delaney's short story

Shelagh Delaney

Shelagh Delaney

I am excited to announce that I have been given permission by the estate of the late Shelagh Delaney (1938 – 2011) – one of English literature’s most important and relevant 20th Century writers – to base a new oratorio on the short story entitled “All About And To A Female Artist” (1964).

Shelagh Delaney assembled this prose piece from the mountains of negative, cynical, begging, sometimes threatening, often funny letters and harsh reviews (mostly critical of her gender) that she was bombarded with at just 19 years old following the enormous success of her debut play “A Taste Of Honey”.

It is an honour to be granted this permission – not only because of my immense respect for her writing talent and my enjoyment of her work, but also because Shelagh was very careful about who she allowed to work with her material, and her estate have turned other proposals down in the last 18 months that were felt inappropriate.

The oratorio is expected to premiere in Autumn 2014. Dan Watson has confirmed that contemporary ensemble Thumb will perform the new work, which will again build on my PhD research into microtonal harmony; and feature instruments specifically adapted for that use (You can see a few of them on this site, customised by expert guitar man Jerry Crosson).

Dan will also curate the concert, which will feature a call for scores from emerging composers in addition to the world premiere of my new oratorio.

Thank you Thumb!

Ruth Hopkins sings The Tempest

Ruth Hopkins sings The Tempest

I suppose I should have been nervous about what Michael Wolters jokingly called my “first portrait concert” last week, but having attended rehearsals I simply sat back and enjoyed an incredibly skilled performance under the intelligent lead of my good friend and conductor Dan Watson.

I have only heard, in recent years, of one other group attempting to perform in 31-et (James Weeks/Exaudi) – and that was a choral rather than instrumental piece. Thumb acheived something very special – transforming fixed temperament, diatonic instruments into new, microtonal versions through sheer hard work and experimentation. The results were surprising and stimulating, and Ruth Hopkins effortlessly intoned some of the strangest intervals as if she had always sung that way. You were all wonderful – thank you Thumb x

  • Featured Performance

    The Tempest

    Thumb, conductor Dan Watson.
    Recital Hall, B'ham, UK.

    December 3rd 2012.
    "...a sea change into something rich and strange..."