On the palmy beach


King’s Place opened over ten years ago and I feel rather guilty that I haven’t been there more often. They programme over 600 concerts a year, and so many of these look really interesting. I have a feeling the acoustic of the main hall doesn’t specially favour vocal music, and this might have affected my own involvement there over the years. But having written On the palmy beach, a King’s Place commission for soprano Ruby Hughes, this was my chance to get some of my songs onto that elegant wooden stage.

Ruby’s request interestingly specified the inclusion of a cello (brilliant Natalie Clein) as well as piano (Julius Drake, ditto.) My first guess was that it would be obvious to merge a continuo-like cello line into the piano texture, but somehow that refused to happen. It soon became much more alluring to liberate the cello, which soared into the foreground, eventually personifying a very wide-armed jellyfish and then a sinister basking shark (in poems by Kathleen Jamie and Norman McCaig.) Two beach scenes from Wallace Stevens and Emily Dickinson completed this sea-inclined collection.

Visiting the King’s Place site is so impressive – with important neighbours they can be proud of, including the Francis Crick Institute, Central St Martin’s and The Guardian newspaper. But it was concerning to see a row of giant towers springing up all along Goods Way (pictured). Once they’re finished, that’s going to become a very windy walk and cycleway.

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer

© Judith Weir, 2020