City Solstice was commissioned by The City of London Corporation for The City of London Festival 2009, and is dedicated, with thanks, to Ian Ritchie.
Instrumentations - Choir, Organ, Soprano Saxophone
Duration - 18 minutes
First performance - 22nd June 2009 at Southwark Cathedral.
Performed by The Choir of King's College, Cambridge
conducted by Stephen Cleobury, with John Harle (Soprano Saxophone).
City Solstice celebrates the 800th anniversary of the construction of various bridges on the site of the current London Bridge. The difficulty of erecting sturdy constructions on this bend in the Thames, where the currents are particularly strong, has led to a rich seam of stories about the bridges, passed on through history, myth and folklore.
What are thought to be the original words of 'London Bridge is falling down' carry much of the references to materials used in building the original bridges - wood and stone, gravel and stone, and then later, iron and steel. The lines my fair lady, dance over my lady lea (or lee) and with a gay lady, are thought to refer to Matilda of Scotland (c.1080- 1118), consort of Henry I, and who was responsible for building the series of bridges that carried the London to Colchester road across the River Lea.
King (Saint) Olaf II of Norway figures prominently in the destruction of the bridge after its occupation by the Danes around 1013. Coming to the assistance of Aethelred, Olaf is thought to have pulled the bridge down into the Thames, along with its occupying Danes, rather than fight on the bridge itself. There is a line in the Norse saga The Heimskringla that refers to London Bridge being broken down.
John Harle and Tom Pickard
John Harle and Tom Pickard have collaborated previously on two projects. Their folkopera The Ballad of Jamie Allan was commissioned by The Sage, Gateshead for their opening season, and was performed by Omar Ebrahim, Sarah-Jane Morris, Kathryn Tickell and the Northen Sinfonia, conducted by John Harle. Prior to that they met as musical and literary advisors to Sir Paul McCartney at the early compositional stages of McCartney's oratorio Standing Stone.