The Bells of Paradise

CHRISTOPHER SMITH St John Maddermarket, Norwich (Norfolk and Norwich Festival)w


St John Maddermarket, Norwich (Norfolk and Norwich Festival)

Imaginative, intriguingly different with a special beauty of its own, The Bells of Paradise is an hour-long tone poem on the seven ages of man. Framing each movement in the music of nature and everyday life, Terry Mann scores it for bells of every size and timbre.

Agile hand bells weave their skittish patterns over the noble boom of tenor bells, and a computer has been used to create new sounds that add fresh shades to a kaleidoscope of recordings from belfries in London, Litchfield and East Anglia. Expert ears will recognise the fine contribution from St Peter Mancroft.

The most developed episode, with the title Soldier, has real strength as it strides towards its great climax. Simpler in plan, Wisdom moves at a slower pace, with expressive harmony, conveying a sense of serenity.

The conclusion is wonderfully simple. A bell tolls 79 times on a monotone in tribute to the composer's late father before human grief is set in the context of birdsong in rural tranquillity. This is a free event that should not be missed.

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