Title: Miners’ Song: the Horsforth Ballad
First performance: The 24 (cond. Bill Brooks) | Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, York, UK | 10/11/2011
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On February 5th 1806 the mouth of one of the bell pits in Horsforth collapsed, burying a number of miners alive. They spoke for several days and air was admitted to them through a hole bored in the earth. Down this passage-way a few beans were scattered but no other relief could be given to the men, who remained underground for twelve days, until their bodies were brought to the surface.
Telling a tragic story, this song touches on emotions surrounding loss, grief and longing. The tragedy is a human one, caused by the failings of Man. Greed and selfishness prosper over common sense and good will, leaving our protagonists to long for heaven, or home, or just something other than what they face. The alternative they long for, however, is the same as what they fear in all but name. The attitude of the text towards the Church, and faith more generally, is ambiguous.
Taking the four basses as soloists, the piece tells this very personal story. The soloists assume the roles of miners whilst the female voices represent their families in a semi-theatrical work.