How often do 800 people acknowledge a performance with a standing ovation? In last month’s Two Moors Festival production of Britten’s masterpiece, Exeter Cathedral’s capacity audience did just that. They stood up in recognition of one of the finest performances of Britten’s masterpiece ever to be seen and heard. With no exaggeration, this will remain in the minds of everyone involved for generations to come. Over 170 children from all corners of Devon came together to take part; ‘animals’ sprawled the nave; musicians filled the large stage and to cap it all, and much to everyone’s astonishment, an impressively tall ship’s mast rose from the bowls of the Ark in preparation for the impending storm.
Directed by The Royal Opera House’s Thomas Guthrie and conducted by Greg Pearson, guest presenter on BBC Radio 3’s ‘The Choir’, this was a production at the highest level.
It is hard to describe it in a way to convince the millions in the UK that it was worthy of performance in one of London’s great churches or cathedrals (Britten made it clear that it was never to be performed in a theatre). If it had been lucky enough to have had the critics present, reviews would have been at least 4* without hesitation. Of course, BBC 2’s Proms presenter, Petroc Trelawny as ‘God’ was, so to speak, the icing on the cake.
It was a privileged few who saw Noye. Whether parents, festival supporters, or sponsors, the experience will remain with them forever. For the children, the impeccable production, guidance and involvement in this project will have given them confidence, inspiration and a lasting memory of something they can relate to their grandchildren. I am sure too, that the Festival’s remarkably supportive Patron, HRH The Countess of Wessex will have gone home having been moved almost to tears.
What a triumph this was! It wasn’t local, it wasn’t even regional. Here was something produced ina area of the UK not normally associated with the arts at international level. ‘Noye’ flew the British flag for inspirational music-making, as a showcase for Benjamin Britten in his anniversary year, involvement of children in an age where music is absent from schools and it attracted an audience not used to classical music or attending church. One thing’s for sure, the audience sang the hymns in a way that put Christmas carols in the shade.
I wish you had been there…
Penny Adie, artistic director