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News - Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Song Cycle ‘Last Man Standing’ to Premiere at Barbican Hall

Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra will present the world premiere of a newly-commissioned song cycle by British composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad at Barbican Hall on Friday, November 30 at 7:30pm.

Last Man Standing
was inspired by the Great War and is programmed alongside Vaughan Williams’ Fourth Symphony, which draws on the composer’s wartime experiences in the Medical Corps during WWI. Arnold Bax’s tone poem November Woods completes an all-British concert programme.

Baritone Marcus Farnsworth will give the premiere performance of Last Man Standing, which sets a new text by Tamsin Collison inspired by WW1 texts and personal testimonies. Frances-Hoad explains the development of their new work in her programme note:

“We originally intended to draw on the WW1 memoirs of Siegfried Sassoon, but then decided to use our piece to explore the experiences and emotions of an anonymous British soldier – an Everytommy, who could represent men of every rank and class. Over the course of three years, we immersed ourselves in novels, poetry, letters, eyewitness accounts and documentaries. The BBC's seminal 1964 26-part series ‘The Great War’ was a particularly important source for us, as was Joan Littlewood’s 'Oh! What a Lovely War'. I poured over military pamphlets detailing everything from bugle calls to the maintenance of heavy artillery. Nicholas Saunders’s book 'The Poppy', tracing the flower’s cultural and social history, provided Tamsin with a framework for the narrative. And we spent many hours together in the Imperial War Museum, attempting to comprehend the incomprehensible.

Much of this research has found its way into the musical language of Last Man Standing: the Music Hall ditties that bribed and shamed boys into enlisting, the bugle calls that sounded the alarm and ordered soldiers to commence firing, the artillery and trench whistles that sent men to their deaths (the percussion section includes replica whistles, made with the same materials, from the original J. Hudson & co. factories). Soldiers' songs (‘When this lousy war is over’ (to the tune of ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’) and ‘The bells of hell go ting-a-ling, for you but not for me’) feature, as well as the most famous of all, ‘We're here because we're here’. For me, Tamsin's text says all that needs to be said about our new work: and in the music setting I have attempted to express something of the emotional gamut our 'ordinary' Tommy must have experienced: from excitement, optimism and pride, through boredom, terror and despair, to resignation and some form of acceptance."

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BBC Singers Advent Concert
The BBCSO concert will be prefaced by a BBC Singers Advent concert at 6pm at St. Giles’ Cripplegate. In anticipation of Christmas joys to come, they will present seasonal British choral works by Bax and Frances-Hoad.

The programme includes five Frances-Hoad carols and motets: Gaude et Laetare, This time a child is born, From the beginning of the world, Floodlight Starlight, There is no rose.


BBC Radio 3 'In Tune' Interview
In anticipation of these performances, Frances-Hoad will be interviewed live on BBC Radio 3's live drive-time programme In Tune by presenter Katie Derham on Tuesday, November 27 at 5.15pm. 


Magic Lantern Tales
Released this month on Champs Hill Records, 'Magic Lantern Tales' showcases her vocal music and features Nicky Spence, Sophie Daneman, Mark Stone and Sholto Kynoch among others. It is from South Yorkshire poet and well-known radio voice Ian Mcmillan’s cycle ‘Magic Lantern Tales’ that the album takes its title, telling the stories of dementia sufferers.

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Explore her full Spotify playlist


About Cheryl Frances-Hoad
Admired for her originality, fluency and professionalism, Cheryl Frances-Hoad has been composing to commission since she was fifteen. Classical tradition (she trained as a cellist and pianist at the Menuhin School before going on toCambridge and King's College, London) along with diverse contemporary inspirations including literature, painting and dance, have contributed to a creative presence provocatively her own.Intricate in argument, sometimes impassioned, sometimes mercurial, always compelling in its authority (Robin Holloway, The Spectator), her output - widely premiered, broadcast and commercially recorded, reaching audiences from the Proms to outreach workshops - addresses all genres from opera, ballet and concerto to song, chamber and solo music.

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