British Composers Project


Brith Gof


John Hardy page 2 return to Biographical Notes


By 1988 Brith Gof were ready to launch Gododdin a huge site-specific performance spectacular, about a small band of proto-Welsh celtic warriors, wiped out by Saxons in Northern Britain around 625 AD. The edgy, industrial percussion group Test Dept were recruited to help create the live surround soundtrack to the shows.

The first version was performed in a derelict car factory near Cardiff. Later, recreated in a sand quarry at Polverigi [Italy], a crane factory in Hamburg [Germany], an ice hockey stadium in Friesland [Netherlands] and the Tramway building in Glasgow, where it directly inspired James MacMillan's piece Beserking. The show played live to 11,000 and there was also a recording. The music was composed by John Hardy although he was forced to take an equal share with 7 other people in the writing credits. The lyrics, attributed to the poet Aneurin, have survived from the 8th century.

The next big show was Pax, subtitled 'an eco-opera', but this multi-media site-specific event realy defied genre. At the first run of performances, in St David's Hall, Cardiff, a huge team of riggers erected a specially designed slice of gothic cathedral out of shiny new scaffolding.

At a subsequent staging, in Glasgow's former Harland and Wolf ship engine factory on the Clyde, an enormous performance area, crisscrossed by actors and filled with audience, was surrounded by twelve 7-metre scaffolding towers, each containing a flying angel and a live musician or two. At a third version, in the railway station concourse at Aberystwyth, in central Wales, the arrival and departure of trains were choreographed into the music and the spectacle. Live audiences for the show totalled nearly 10,000.



The music took the form of a narrative, semi oratorio, a multi-lingual dialogue between an elderly, rural mother, her astronaut son who looks back at Earth from Outer Space, an angel [coloratura soprano] who is heard by the astronaut, and a narrator, who gives scientific details about weather, pollution and global warming.
The cd and cassette featuring the voice of Mike Peters [of Welsh rock band The Alarm] was released in 1991, and is still available.

Among many other shows for Brith Gof were Los Angeles created for the 1991 Glasgow Mayfest and subsequently toured. The music was mainly pre-recorded, but in a pilot version in an old brewery in Rhymni Valley, it was improvised, with tape fragments played in real time, and added to with live instruments and sound processing. It played on the idea of Angels all around us, as proposed by Swedenborg and other mystics, in contrast to the city of angels in California.

Patagonia was created [thanks to the Barclays New Stages Award] for the Royal Court Theatre in London, and also toured widely. It set a highly atmospheric tone, evoking the cold, dry, timeless semi-deserts of Argentina, where hundreds of Welsh speaking emigrants settled in the later 19th century, and remain to this day, combined with the gruesome story of two gringo gunmen who tried to rob a remote general stores run by a pillar of the Welsh community there in 1906.

Haearn [Iron] was created for an old iron foundry in Tredegar, in the Gwent Valleys, in Autumn 1992. An operatic solo soprano [Gail Pearson], singing of the Greek myth of Hephaestus, was supported by 3 local choirs and a large brass band, augmented by percussion and keyboards, plus an electro-acoustic soundtrack made out of transformed recordings from a modern steelworks.
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