YES Festival scores a hit with Flodden music

Composer Sally Beamish. Promotional images licensed for 3rd Party Editorial and Marketing Use.

Composer Sally Beamish. Promotional images licensed for 3rd Party Editorial and Marketing Use.

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Composer Sally Beamish’s Flodden, which premiered at Selkirk’s YES Festival, is in the finals for a Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) Award.

Beamish’s piece for orchestra and soprano, written to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the fateful Battle of Flodden, was given its world premier at Selkirk’s Victoria Halls on September 14, 2013, performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under conductor Joseph Swensen, and sung by Scottish soprano Shuna Scott Sendall.

The work drew on texts by RS Craig and JB Selkirk, as well as on Jean Elliot’s famous lament, The Liltin’, while Walter Scott’s Marmion inspired two orchestral interludes.

The shortlist for this year’s RPS Music Awards, described as the UK’s most prestigious awards for live classical music, were announced on April 15, live on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune.

Beamish’s Flodden is up against George Benjamin’s Written on Skin, and David Matthews’ A Vision of the Sea in the Large-Scale Composition category. The winner will be revealed at London’s Dorchester Hotel on May 13.

Describing her new work to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) magazine, Beamish said: “I’ve been working with writer Judy Steel on sourcing texts about the battle of Flodden Field. I have drawn on the famous Flo’ers o’ the Forest, and on two other poems – one traditional, and the other, A Dream of Flodden, by R.S. Craig. It’s an extended elegy – in five movements; three songs, interspersed with two short orchestral interludes inspired by Scott’s Marmion.”

The SCO’s programme of powerful music opened with Kodaly’s Summer Evening, and concluded with Beethoven’s explosive Overture to the Coriolan and his cheerful Symphony no 4.

Initially a viola player, London-born Beamish moved to Scotland in 1990 to develop her career as a composer.

Her music embraces many influences: particularly jazz and Scottish traditional music. She is currently working with poet Sir Andrew Motion on a joint commission from the London Symphony Orchestra and Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Equal Voices, to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War.

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