Catherine Bott presents a concert given as part of the 2009 Proms celebration of the 75th birthday of composer Peter Maxwell Davies, featuring a performance of two of his most important choral works.
Westerlings imagines the early Norse settlers colonising Orkney in the 8th century. In one of the most virtuosic works in the entire choral repertoire, George Mackay Brown's poems are set alongside wordless 'seascapes', creating an enormously atmospheric piece which vividly conjures up the cold and wet and other hardships endured by the settlers, rowing their longboats across the waters from Scandinavia. Sightings of whales and fish, waves and birds, culminate - at landfall - in a haunting setting of the Lord's Prayer, sung in the old Norse of ancient Orkney.
It is followed by another piece with powerful Orcadian roots: Solstice of Light, for chorus, organ and solo tenor, sets more words by Brown charting the whole history of the Orkney archipelago. It begins as the islands first emerge from seas and ice, then describes the prehistoric builders of cairns and stone circles, the Celtic men and women who bring a religion of dance and light, Viking marauders who murder the islands' own saint - Magnus - and finally brings the story into our own times of those who would rape and despoil the Orkneys in search of the treasures of today - oil, minerals, uranium.
Ed Lyon (tenor)
David Goode (organ)
David Hill (conductor)
Peter Maxwell Davies: Westerlings; Solstice of Light.