Critique following World Premiere Concert, Blackburn Cathedral 15 November 2014

Concert Review: by Anna Stuttard:- Vocalist with London Crouch End Festival Chorus & Lancashire Telegraph Reporter.

BLACKBURN Cathedral was packed on Saturday night for the world premiere of a classical piece of music by former Darwener, David Mellor. Visitors flew in from the USA, France and Australia but it was certainly Darwen’s night. Many of the audience were from the town and Canon Andrew Hindley told them, to enthusiastic applause: “Tonight, we are in Darwen Cathedral!” Among the guests were Darwen M.P. Jake Berry and his wife. He said, “Fabulous night, warm congratulations to everyone involved.”


Shortly before Christmas in 1917, three lads left the Sunday School of St. Barnabas in Darwen, heading for the moors. In the sudden blizzard that followed, all three died.

Singers from St. Barnabas’ school, Darwen, joined the Appeal Choir and Blackburn Music Society in a concert that included Faure’s Requiem as well as the premiere of David Mellor’s tone poem ‘Tragedy on Darwen Moor, December 1917’. The concert included a second work by renowned composer Mellor, his ‘Peace Anthem’, written in response to the events of 9/11. The finale was his ‘Tragedy on Darwen Moor’. Mellor used choral voices to add texture, colour and intensity to the symphonic work and the occasional use of text added particular drama. Mellor says he thinks visually when composing and this is evident in his music, which sounds like film music, stirring, emotional and evocative, driven by rhythm. His scoring is bright and dramatic, using the strings as a rhythm section and frequently leaving the melodies to woodwind and brass. In a particularly beautiful section, solo violin and cello hushed horns and woodwind, grew into an orchestral theme as lush as anything ever heard on Classic FM. The augmented Northern Chamber Orchestra performed with brilliance and sensitivity.


The inscription on the grave of two of the lads who perished on the moor that night included a line from the Apocrypha: “A good life is a short one and a good name endureth for ever.” Saturday’s concert brought to life by a unique collaboration between the composer, the cathedral and two local journalists will ensure that the names of these youngsters will indeed endure. –A.S.


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