The Walking Shadows Premiere at St Martin-in-the Fields 30th October

The Walking Shadows. A new choral work dealing with about an important (but often forgotten) aspect of the First World War. The debilitating and tragic consequences of mental breakdown on soldiers and their families. In a format which offers a compelling narrative commented on by sometimes unsettling new settings of First World War songs, we follow the fate of Eddie - first reluctant hero, then a tragic victim.

It is a story of four people in a landscape of war with a libretto by the Irish poet, Aoife Mannix. Aoife and I researched The Walking Shadows in Northern France and Flanders to help us understand how the War affected not only the combatants, but those who nursed them and what it all meant for the people back home.

Unusually for a First World War commemorative choral work, we are coming at it from an angle and telling the stories of four very different individuals caught up in the maelstrom of conflict. In particular we focus on Eddie, a young man first hailed as a hero and then, after a breakdown, accused of cowardice. So it also deals with issues of stress and its affect on all those around. Everyone is changed forever.

It will be performed by Canticum Choir and Counterpoint conducted by Mark Forkgen (who has championed my work and given many first performances), and it is programmed alongside the Mozart Requiem - a work which The Walking Shadows is written to partner. The soloists include soprano Lucy Bray who was exceptional in Banished in 2016 at Trinity Laban and also in The Burning Boy last year with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kokoro. Also the outstanding young Welsh baritone Steffan Lloyd Owen who takes the lead in my yet to be released opera, Hedd Wyn/2117, written for Welsh National Opera and S4C TV

For full details see here: http://www.canticum.org.uk

Also see poet Aoife Mannix’s new Blog on writing the libretto at https://applesandsnakes.org/aoife-mannix-power-music/

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Stephen McNeff