ARTISTS

PHILIP SAWYERS

The 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower will be in 2020. My task as a composer was to write a substantial choral/orchestral work to commemorate this event and the challenges that the Pilgrims faced in the New World.

 

My librettist wrote an imaginative piece that incorporated both a narrative and a reflection on the wider implications the story contained. So human attributes and frailties, moral, religious and political questions are touched upon.

 

The resulting Cantata, Mayflower on the Sea of Time, is in 4 parts. The first, persecution and journey, gave me scope among other things for an exciting ‘storm at sea’ section. The second part, Arrival in the New World, features historic characters, some from Worcester City, and also includes some of the communities’ children. We also meet the first Native Americans that the Pilgrims encounter and the music takes us through their sometimes peaceful and sometimes antagonistic co-existence. The third part is Survival and Making our Community. Musically this is a fast ‘scherzo’ section with an equal mix of humour (wives berating their husbands for excessive drinking!) and pathos as the hard first winter led to the deaths of many in the settlement. The fourth part includes a joyous celebration, the first Thanksgiving, and reflections on what happened to some of the characters we have already met. The final section of part 4, The Sea of Time, ties the themes together with an almost timeless relevance to the human journeys we all share.

 

The last duet between the soprano and baritone soloists is a setting of some lines reflecting the mystic qualities of the natural world by one of America’s most iconic poets, Walt Whitman. The last joyous chorus brings the work to an affirmative close.

Philip Sawyers 

NEIL FERRIS

I am really excited about returning to work with incredibly talented secondary school students and their dedicated teachers in Worcester for what promises to be a special, rewarding, and life-long memorable event. To celebrate Worcester's association with the Mayflower we have commissioned a superb piece from Philip Sawyers, 'Mayflower on the sea of time' and the students will have the opportunity to sing with professional soloists and an orchestra that has a long association with Worcester, the English Symphony Orchestra.

 

Two years ago we performed the Armed Man in a sold-out cathedral; the experience for those involved in that project was for many life-changing, and I was struck by how emotionally engaged the participants were with the over-arching themes, as well as being inspired by the outstanding professional musicians that were sharing the stage with them. Philip Sawyers has given us a piece that not only challenges us to think about the ramifications of colonisation but also match that with a celebration of human endeavour and discovery. I can't wait to get started on this project and to meet the outstanding young people who will bring 'Mayflower on The Sea of Time' to Worcester.

Neil Ferris

APRIL FREDRICK

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DAVID STOUT

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KENNETH WOODS

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ENGLISH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

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ACADEMY THEATRE ARTS

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