The British Isles: A Musical Tour – North of England

With Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Bradford and Leeds, the North Country has some of the country’s finest cities offering a vast range of attractions. But with Northumberland, the Lakes, the Peaks, the Moors and the Dales this region has more miles of unspoilt natural countryside than any other – not surprisingly a popular place with composers then.

McCartney – Liverpool Oratorio
Mention music in the same breath as Liverpool and it won’t be long before the Beatles enter the conversation. Fans of the Fab Four can visit a museum, the Cavern nightclub in Matthew Street and even the National Trust house where Sir Paul McCartney was born. The venues which inspired many Beatles songs – for instance, Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane – can all be enjoyed from the Magical Mystery Bus Tour. The magnificent Anglican cathedral staged the premiere of the Liverpool Oratorio, Sir Paul’s first venture into orchestral and choral forms.

Herrmann – Wuthering Heights
This little moorland village is the home of the Brontë sisters. The dark-stoned parsonage where they wrote their poems and novels is now a museum and centre of pilgrimage for lovers of literature. With their Byronic heroes and raw passions it is surprising that the novels have so seldom been adapted into operas. However, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights did inspire one – albeit rarely performed – from Hitchcock’s film score writer Bernard Herrmann. Pop singer Kate Bush had a hit with her song of the same name and Sir Cliff Richard played Heathcliff in his musical based on the novel.

Simon – Scarborough Fair
This attractive coastal resort has a famous theatre, the Stephen Joseph, which premieres most of the plays of Alan Ayckbourn. Possibly the world’s most prolific playwright, Mr Ayckbourn has written over 40 – more than Shakespeare. The simple folksong, ‘Scarborough Fair’, has enchanted countless singers and musicians, perhaps the most famous version being that of Simon and Garfunkel.

Maxwell Davies, Birtwistle, Goehr
Manchester’s musical claims to fame include the Hallé, Britain’s oldest orchestra, the new Bridgewater Concert Hall and the Royal Northern College of Music. Musicians associated with the city include conductor Sir John Barbirolli and the distinguished composers of the Manchester College of Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Alexander Goehr.

Delius – North Country Sketches
The home of the important photography and film museums and the David Hockney Art Gallery, Bradford was also the birthplace of the North’s most famous composer, Frederic Delius. While a lot of his music was inspired by Britain, Delius actually spent little time in this country. His music is very European in style and influences include Wagner, Grieg, Strauss and Debussy.

Classic CD magazine, 1998


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