Jonathan Dove's new work for the BBC Symphony Chorus, We Are One Fire, premieres on 19 August 2019 at the Royal Albert Hall. Opening Prom 43 (which also includes Dieter Ammann's Piano Concerto Beethoven's Ninth Symphony) We Are One Fire features a new text written by long-time collaborator Alasdair Middleton and is a festive 90th birthday present for the BBC Symphony Chorus, who have regularly given splendid performances of Dove's music at the Proms.
“All men become brothers”, says Schiller in his Ode to Joy, and knowing that these words would be sung in the second half of the concert, Dove found himself reflecting that twentieth-century archaeology showed us that we are all indeed brothers and sisters.
Expressed in A History of the World in One Hundred Objects, its author, Neil MacGregor, explains that archaeologist Louis Leakey’s 1931 excavations “produced the oldest known humanly made things anywhere in the world at that time, and they demonstrated that not only human beings but also human culture had begun in Africa… [they] did more than push humans back in time: they made it clear that all of us descend from those African ancestors, that every one of us is part of a huge African diaspora – we all have Africa in our DNA and all our culture began there.”
MacGregor quotes Nobel Peace Prize-winner Wangari Maathai: “The information we have tells us that we came from somewhere in eastern Africa. Because we are so used to being divided along ethnic lines, along racial lines, and we look all the time for reasons to be different from each other, it must be surprising to some of us to realize that what differentiates us is usually very superficial, like the colour of our skin or the colour of our eyes or the texture of our hair, but that essentially we are all from the same stem, the same origin.”
Wanting to celebrate this shared ancestry, Dove searched for suitable words to express these thoughts in song. But these are relatively recent ideas, still evolving, and hard to find in lyric form, so Dove asked Alasdair Middleton to write a new text specially for this commission. Dove already had an idea of the kind of choral music he wanted to write: something joyous and tribal, but not using (or copying) any traditional music from another country.
Prom 43 takes place at the Royal Albert Hall on 19 August 2019 at 7.30pm.
Jonathan Dove is to receive a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to music, ahead of his 60th Birthday on 18 July 2019.
Few contemporary composers have such universal appeal or have done more to further the cause of modern opera than Jonathan Dove. His comic operatic masterpiece Flight, commissioned by Glyndebourne in 1998 with a libretto by April De Angelis, was described as “the Figaro of our time” by Hugh Canning in The Sunday Times and has gone on to become one of the most performed contemporary operas of the past two decades.
Dove’s continued enthusiasm, talent and energy for working with children, young people and communities to create engaging works has led to commissions from choirs, orchestras and opera companies around the world. His latest community opera with librettist Alasdair Middleton, The Monster in the Maze (2015), was commissioned by Sir Simon Rattle, Simon Halsey and the Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra and Aix-en-Provence Festival and further productions have engaged communities across the globe.
This summer sees a revival of Dove’s comic opera Mansfield Park at Waterperry Opera Festival in Oxfordshire, described as a “total joy, by turns laugh-out-loud funny and shed-a-tear sad”. A new choral work titled We Are One Fire premieres at the BBC Proms on 19 August with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.
Jonathan Dove said:
”Writing music for children, young people and the community to sing and play is truly one of the great joys in my life. It’s particularly rewarding to bring amateurs and professionals together. I am delighted to receive this honour and pleased that music and creativity has been recognised as important to all of us.”
Nicholas Riddle, CEO at Edition Peters, commented:
“For over 30 years Jonathan has composed a rich body of music that gets performed again and again. His work has delighted and engaged performers and audiences of all ages, especially children and young people for whom he has written many wonderful scores.”
Jonathan Dove’s chamber opera Mansfield Park, based on Jane Austen’s beloved novel, returns to Waterperry Opera Festival in July after a sell-out run and 5-star reviews in 2018. Performed in the regency ballroom of Waterperry House, Oxfordshire, this intimate production of Mansfield Park is presented just as the composer intended.
“I had always imagined Mansfield Park needing no scenery, just a country house of the right period, and Waterperry Opera Festival made this dream come true in the most fantastic way with their deliciously stylish production, ingeniously directed by Rebecca Meltzer with great humour and feeling.”
Jonathan is also newly appointed Honorary Patron of Waterperry Opera Festival.
Performances run 25 – 28 July 2019.
Tickets are available from the Waterperry Opera Festival website