The Airman’s Tale

MICHAEL DRAKE Alderman Peel School, Wells


>Alderman Peel School,Wells

The combination of the 60th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe and Norfolk's myriad airfields at that time is the background for composer Gerard McBurney (an East Anglian himself) and librettist Jonathan Keates in this new, short opera commissioned by the Yorke Trust.

Their mission to create a junior arts school at South Creake is reflected in the young chorus drawn from local schools; but before hearing them, there was a prelude in Ivan Howlett's Warsounds - reminiscences of those dark days in our history from recordings and local voices, not to mention the dreaded air-raid siren.

Once the close harmony had settled, a quartet backed by a splendid small instrumental ensemble conducted by Darren Hargan set the scenes, and its smooth running under Jennifer Hamilton's direction carried on to the tale itself.

Here was a wartime love triangle with the noise of aircraft engines signifying a departure never far away for the trio of extremely fine voices.

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The score, while not full of memorable tunes, is always atmospheric, the most telling scene being when the girlfriends of the two-timing American airman come face to face.

It sums up some hopes and the real fears and disappointments of what was a transitory period in the lives of many people caught up in it, with a particularly poignant trio "What can she/he/they see in him/her/me?"

"No medals, no honour, no fame," sang the chorus, but the work will shortly be deservedly published on the internet.Saturday evenings.

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