Harpur Trust pupils to debut music written by former Harvey and the Wallbangers front-man

Harvey Brough.
Harvey Brough.
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Pupils from across Bedford will be in the cast of a musical written by former Harvey and the Wallbangers front-man Harvey Brough.

Students from Bedford School, Bedford Girls’ School and Pilgrims Pre-Preparatory School will join forces with professional vocal ensemble VOCES8 and the Phoenix Orchestra to give the first performance of a specially commissioned work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, on Sunday, March 23.

The work has been composed and directed by Harvey, the former front-man of the 80s rock band.

The project, which has taken a year and a half to complete, was the brainchild of Joss Sanders, the director of music at Bedford School.

Sanders wanted to commission a musical piece that would retell the book, The Pilgrim’s Progress, written by John Bunyan in 17th Century, whilst he was imprisoned in Bedford County Gaol for preaching without a licence.

Full of religious references, the book has already been turned into an opera by composer Ralph Vaughan Williams but it took him 45 years to complete. As a result of this, Sanders knew that the creation of another musical adaptation would require the skills of a talented musician and composer.

On his decision to approach Brough, Sanders said: “Since his success in the 80s, Brough has gone on to forge a career as an accomplished composer and performer in a diverse range of styles, varying from renaissance to jazz and blues. Having worked with him on a number of previous projects I knew he would be able to retell the story in a new and accessible way that would captivate an audience.”

Once commissioned, Brough approached his friend James Runcie – a talented novelist and film maker with a broad understanding of both literature and the bible, who was able to help translate the text into a libretto that would work with music.

Harvey said: “After an uncertain start, I am now relieved that I stuck with the project. It was a huge challenge but I took my inspiration from the book itself.

“It tells of the triumph of faith over adversity so I resolved not to lose heart and focused instead on the creation of something that would capture the essence of Bunyard’s book and be accessible to a whole new audience.

“We have just had a first run through and I was thrilled with how well the choir is doing with the piece and how great it sounded even at an early stage. Everyone involved, from my fellow musicians to the school children, VOCES8 vocalists, players and teachers have put their time, effort and love into making the first performance happen. I am also thankful to Joss Sanders for having the original vision and James Runcie for creating such a fantastic libretto.”

The project has received support from the Bedford School Trust, which was established in 1926 to provide financial support for a range of school activities.

If you would like to purchase a ticket for the first performance, which takes place at 7.30pm in the Great Hall at Bedford School, tickets (priced at £8 or £4 for students) are available from Bedford School Music Box Office. Telephone 01234 362254 or email rielden@bedfordschool.org.uk