One of Europe’s finest young conductors who has been chosen to lead the world premiere of a new work inspired by the 200th anniversary of an infamous massacre and the horrific experiences of a child labourer which prompted Charles Dickens to write Oliver Twist.
Robert Guy, who comes from Wrexham, says it will be a great honour to conduct the celebrated Orchestra of Opera North for their production of A Day in the Life which tells the story of forced labour in the cotton mills of the North West in the 19th century.
The three-part composition will be performed for the first time at Morley Town Hall, in Morley, on Friday, May 3.
The eagerly awaited Arts Council for England funded project is a remarkable collaboration between Anglo-American composer Kevin Malone, internationally acclaimed violinist Andy Long, Leeds-based Orchestra of Opera North and Guy.
The premiere has extra significance for the region coming in the run up to the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre in Manchester.
Fifteen people died and 650 were injured when soldiers on horseback charged a crowd of 60,000 at a peaceful workers rights demonstration in August 1819.
Central to the new work is the story of Robert Blincoe, the former century child labourer whose memoir detailing the horrors of life for impoverished textile workers was serialised in newspaper articles in the early 1800s.
Fresh back from a career milestone debut appearance conducting the Honor Chamber String Orchestra at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, Robert Guy said the invitation to conduct Malone’s newest, highly anticipated work was his most exciting opportunity to date.
He said: “It’s a thrill and a huge honour to work with Kevin, who I hold in the highest regard. I know this latest work will have resonance across the whole of the north west and deliver hard hitting social messages relevant to the world today.
“I really can’t describe what a prodigious moment it is in my career to work with Kevin, Andy and the great Orchestra of Opera North all at the same time.”
Rehearsals are due to begin imminently for the world premiere. The first ever five performances of A Day in the Life will be deliberately staged in small venues in the heart of the one-time cotton producing towns which inspired the landmark project. They will take place at various dates from May 3-25.
It is the culmination of months of work by Malone after he was asked by Andy Long, an associate leader with the Orchestra of Opera North, to write a piece reflecting on the notorious working conditions of the cotton industry.
Long, who has known Malone for 20 years, has performed worldwide. He describes Malone as having an ‘honest, human and touching’ style which brings an extra authenticity to the music.
Having agreed to take on Long’s ambitious proposition, Malone said he had to find a composer with the necessary skills to lead the dynamic Orchestra of Opera North and Robert Guy immediately came to mind.
“I’ve been aware of his work for some time and I instantly knew his style of conducting was an ideal match for this project. There is a fluency and a passion to his conducting which Andy and I agreed was exactly what we needed. He’s also one of the best educators of the art of conducting that I know.”
Guy who grew up in Wrexham, and with his brother Jonathan, founded the NEW Sinfonia orchestra in North Wales, is now Director of Ensembles and Choral Programme at the University of Manchester. He leads the university’s elite undergraduate conducting programme. He is also Principal Conductor to the Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra and Orchestra of Square Chapel in Halifax.
He admitted he had never heard of Blincoe until collaborating on A Day in the Life but added: “That is the wonderful world of music. So many new projects I work on also turn out to be a fascinating lesson in history. And this story is one which Kevin’s unique skills and creativity are so perfectly suited to tell. The results are ingenious.”
Malone is famed for his ability to explore social issues and world events through his original music which spans a range of often unconventional media.
Past works include seven compositions about 9/11 including the globally acclaimed World Trade Centre concerto, 18 minutes, previously recorded by Long. It was selected out of more than two million tracks for inclusion in the NAXOS music library Top 20 recommendations for 2016.
Born in New York, and having worked in America and Britain, Malone is now based in Manchester where he is a Director and Reader of composition at the University of Manchester.
He says he had no hesitation rising to the challenge of taking on A Day in the Life having been gripped by the tale of hardship endured in the Lancashire and Yorkshire cotton mills.
What started out as a commission to produce a violin concerto focused around Blincoe’s life, quickly developed into a much more extensive trilogy.
He said: “When we were awarded Arts Council funding it gave us the impetus to extend the project to focus at an even deeper level on the conditions of the times and how events from the past have similarities with the fervent campaign issues we see today.”
He is excited that the Orchestra of Opera North will be showcasing his work, saying: “Because this is an orchestra used to performing operatic works, they know instinctively how to tell a story and we have an intoxicating, hugely important story to tell through A Day in the Life.”
The world premiere involves three specific sections of music. The first A Peterloo Parade is an overture based on contemporary and historical chants heard at rallies, especially those at the St Peter’s Square massacre. Among its more modern references are the sounds of rallying calls by marchers protesting in America against the policies of President Trump.
This overture is followed up by the central body of the work A Day in the Life, a concerto written specifically for violinist Andy Long and the Orchestra of Opera North. It comprises exactly 24 minutes with each minute representing an hour of a typical the day in the life of Robert Blincoe.
In addition, Malone has composed My Mill Life for solo violin, including pre-recorded monologues by current and former mill workers in the close-knit communities of the Northern textile industry. This piece will only be performed once on July 3 by Andy Long and student violinists from the University of Manchester at the Bradford Industrial Museum’s Weaving Room.
There are already high hopes that the composition will be performed before global audiences, with plans afoot to take it to the Ukraine and America.
Phil Boughton, Director of Orchestra and Chorus, Orchestra of Opera North, added: “We’re delighted that the Orchestra of Opera North will be the first ensemble to perform A Day in the Life, with Andy as the soloist.
“As Yorkshire’s resident symphony orchestra, it’s fitting that we’ll be paying tribute to our own industrial heritage in these historic venues, which I am sure will give added resonance to Kevin Malone’s moving, evocative music.”
The premiere concert series will be at:
May 3 – Morley Town Hall, Morley (World Premiere)
May 4 – Leeds Clothworkers Hall, Leeds
May 5 – Saltaire Victoria Hall, Shipley
May 11 – Pudsey Civic Hall, Pudsey
May 25 – Bradford Cathedral, Bradford
For more information visit: www.adayinthelife