Nene celebrates the people, places and history of the River Nene, and is based on two folk melodies: one from the Badby Morris Men, who hail from the source of the river and one collected by Vaughan Williams on the Fens. We hear the gentle beginnings of the river as it flows to Northampton and the sound of red kites high in the air. A gentle melody represents Higham Ferrers, the childhood home of the composer and in Oundle we hear the sound of the Drumming Well.
Passing Fotheringhay, and the distant sound of the Nassington Brass Band, we approach Wansford and the Peterborough Steam Railway, built in 1845. As the river flows out onto the Fens we hear the tragic story of Molly, who was lost in the river, but who we hear as a Will’o the Wisp, “guiding the wearisome traveller home.”
In Wisbech the sounds of the Carillon form the setting for a poem by John Clare. Here the tidal river can be seen, and heard, flowing backwards. King John’s army arrive as we approach Sutton Bridge, where the Crown Jewels were lost in the marshes. Then the river finally empties itself into the Wash at the tumultuous end of its 123 mile journey.
Composer Benjamin Till grew up near the river and was a member of the Northamptonshire County Youth Orchestra and County Youth Choir performing at the Schools Proms in the early 1990s. After further studies he became a professional composer, with a particular interest in Musical Theatre. He selected Nene as the subject matter and embarked on a solo six day adventure to walk the entire length of the river. The resulting composition features many of the sounds and experiences collected on his trip; a true personal odyssey of discovery.
The Proms performance will be the premiere of a shortened version of Nene. It includes an interactive water-powered sculptural art installation created by Festive Road, and will celebrate the launch of Nenescape. A full 25-minute version will be performed in at the Derngate, Northampton on 8 March and at Peterborough Cathedral on 17 March.