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Music of a Thousand Breaths

Music of a Thousand Breaths: The Pickering Frescoes

Collaboration with Composer David Lancaster.

The extensive medieval wall paintings at Pickering Church depict some of the most vivid and dramatic moments from sacred history and myth: St George spearing a dragon, St Christopher carrying the Christ child, and the martyrdom of St Catherine, St Edmund and St Thomas are all presented here, along with the crucifixion and resurrection.

York-based composer David Lancaster collaborated with poet and novelist Abi Curtis to create a performance which breathes life into the painted figures and allows them to tell their stories in song, instrumental music and dance.

A unique performance was be given by Ensemble 1450 – a brilliant group of young professional performers – in the Church at Pickering, surrounded by the paintings themselves, and included sacred music of the renaissance and an electronic soundscape by David Power.

Here is one of the poems Abi produced as part of the project:

Descent – Ascent

When the time comes

most of us will go into the mouth

of that red beast

as if into a fire.

The rest will be quite astonished

to find they are dragged up

to that part of the church wall

(the church of Peter, the church of Paul)

where the paint has worn so much,

where a thousand breaths have licked

the colour out

where there is a great blankness

that can no longer be read.

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