Remains of Elmet

concerto for viola-vocalist, voices and instruments in six parts
December 2012-April 2013; 30′

Commissioned by Terry Holmes, a music-theatre collaboration with performer Victoria Bernath as joint recipients of the Terry Holmes Composer/Performer Award 2012/13.

Based on and setting poetry from the collection by Ted Hughes.
Texts from Remains of Elmet and Elmet appear with kind permission of The Ted Hughes Estate, with thanks to Faber and Faber Ltd.

Premiere: Victoria Bernath, The 24 choir, University of York Chamber Orchestra, York Spring Festival of New Music 2013, 8th May 2013.

The upturned face of this land
The mad singing in the hills
The prophetic mouth of the rain.

The light, opening younger, fresher wings
Holds this land up again like an offering

Heavy with the dream of a people.

Ted Hughes’s Remains of Elmet, ‘A Pennine Sequence’ (1979), is a poetry collection inspired by photographs by Fay Godwin of the West Yorkshire landscape of his childhood. Together, the poems and photographs address themes of decay and regeneration: social, physical, and psychological. Setting five poems from the collection, this work gives a theatrical twist to the traditional concerto form. Unconducted, a resonance chamber of wordless voices and a staged block of instrumentalists challenge the dual nature of the mercurial soloist: a viola-vocalist who traces a fragile path through the work’s cyclical development.

Solo Viola-Vocalist (singing viola player)
Solo String Quartet
Two SATB choirs
Sinfonietta: piccolo, alto flute, oboe, cor anglais, 2 bassoons, clarinet in A, bass clarinet, 2 trombones, 2 violins, 2 cellos, 2 double basses

‘a rich, ambitious work full of creative ideas. The piece radiated energy and engagement, capturing the strangely haunting, elemental tone of Ted Hughes’s imagery.’
(Steve Crowther, York Press)

Rehearsal photographs by Christopher Leedham and Victoria Bernath.