On Saturday 11 January 2020 BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra premieres Emma-Ruth Richards’ The Sail of a Flame for mezzo-soprano and orchestra at Glasgow City Halls with Lucy Schaufer and conduction by Thomas Dausgaard.
This cycle begins with a powerful and wild ‘burst of vision’ with Kei Miller’s first Light Song of Light. The second and third texts, from Don Paterson’s Rain and Landing Light respectively, explore lyricism as a function of precision and the attraction to the crystalline image; the sharpness of the morning frost has cleared the air into a magnifying glass and surfaces of glass, mirror, air, nerve and stone are carved out by the orchestral accompaniment. Song four acts as a pair of binoculars focussing on the very soul of the mind and Jackie Kay’s Pencil, Knife creates a point of no return within the cycle. Such exactness of sight brings forth the hushed revelation of grief and shivers of longing with Carol Ann Duffy’s Anne Hathaway, with the soloist completely exposed, song five is an invitation into the most intimate of places where terrain and mind stand revealed. Robin Robertson’s Trysts then offers the closing landscape where we exist in-between day and night and where eventually the elegies of twilight mellow the loss of violence and time.
Beauty known, beauty lost, beauty forgottenERR
In a conversation with Composers Edition during the preparation for this performance, Lucy Schaufer talks about the sense of ‘northerliness’ addressed by this set on texts by Scottish writers, or writers connected to Scotland:
Macfarlane’s “northerliness” provides the lens through which I view the text, Emma-Ruth’s music, the fabric of shape, punctuation, and colour of the stories, and with luck, my performance melds these together and adds the intimacy of narration
The Sail of a Flame was commissioned by BBC3 Radio and this performance will be recorded for future broadcast. Orchestral parts of the work are proudly available on hire from Composers Edition, and a large-size conducting score is also available on request.