After two recent concerts in Rye, the Opera Gala in aid of Rye Harbour Discovery Centre in June at Rock Channel Quay, and the splendid Mozart concert with prize-winning pianist Kenny Broberg in September, Marcio da Silva and his Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra have built a sound reputation for quality in Rye. Who knew that he has produced 15 operas in the past five years and is about to produce a world premiere of the opera Merlin by local composer Keith Beale?
Hastings Philharmonic is championing contemporary classical music this coming season in particular; for May 2019 a concert of three prize-winning compositions from the Atatürk International Composition Competition Finals are eagerly awaited in a concert with Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky music. Also a Philip Glass piano concerto will be featured by Hastings Philharmonic next year.
Keith Beal’s Merlin will be an altogether bolder proposition: Merlin is a 2,000-year-old dysfunctional legendary magician and Nimue a poor young Welsh girl on the make. He has spent his life trying to do good for mankind, but everything has gone wrong. There follows a story of sexual awakening, intrigue, incest, failed magic and war based loosely on some of the many legends of Merlin from England, Wales and other parts of Europe. A tragic ending allows Nimue as the ‘Lady of the Lake’ to join Merlin in the ether.
The opera music owes something to minimalist music and Keith’s personal experience playing jazz and working with African musicians. Keith believes that all art should be a balance between the emotional and the intellectual so he has sought euphony, something easy on the ear that enhances the drama of his contemporary piece. At the time Keith wrote this opera he was experimenting with the ‘Diminished Whole Tone Scale’. This diminished scale from the tonic to the flattened dominant, is often associated with Debussy and Ravel in classical music and commonly employed in jazz improvisation.
Keith Beal performed as a jazz saxophonist with world-renowned Hastings Jazz musician Trevor Watts and Moiré Music; he was a member of this avant-garde jazz ensemble, which played at most of the European Jazz Festivals between 1982 and 1986. As a composer he has built an oeuvre of six symphonies, four concertos and dozens of other compositions, which accumulated since the 1980s, while dividing his activities between Hastings and the Netherlands, increasingly as a composer but also as a performer. He had some early success with a composition for the Dutch Tuba Quartet, which became a seminal tuba piece at the World Tuba Convention – so started his “classical” composition career.
Ensemble Orquesta & Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra present the World Premiere of Keith Beal’s opera Merlin at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings on Saturday, October 27, 2018 starting at 7pm. General Admission (e-ticket) £15 + £1.50 s/c, under 18s, students free at the door.
Image Credits: Rye News library, Keith Beale.