September 30th, 2016

Hagley to host St Kenelm World premiere

Hagley to host St Kenelm World premiere Hagley to host St Kenelm World premiere
Updated: 11:12 am, May 07, 2015

HAGLEY will play host to the world premiere of a new work which spans both the boundaries of classic music and literature.

Internationally renowned composer Andrew Downes, who himself is from Hagley, has set Francis Brett Young’s Ballad of St Kenelm to music.

And the piece, commissioned by The Francis Brett Young Society, will be performed at 7.30pm on April 22 at the village’s St John’s Church as part of the Hagley Music Festival.

Francis Brett Young, who lived between 1884 and 1954, was born in Halesowen and was remembered as a regional novelist who wrote about Birmingham, the Black Country and other local areas.

As well as having 30 novels published, he also composed music and wrote drama and poetry.

He considered The Island – 46 poems exploring British history in different styles and often from unusual perspectives – his most important work. The Ballad of St Kenelm, AD 821, the eighth poem in that anthology, tells the story of Kenelm, the boy king of Mercia who was murdered at Clent as part of his sister’s plot to take the throne.

The thrilling and moving ballad will be performed by a 14-piece orchestra, soprano, narrator and actors by Hagley composer.

And, as the music fills the air, there will be projected illustrations of the Kenelm legend by local artist HR. Wilson (1911-2006).

He attended Stourbridge Art School.

The Kenelm legend was copiously illustrated, both with Wilson’s original paintings and his own reproductions of earlier interpretations. There will be 17 original paintings exhibited as part of the concerts.

Downes’ music has been  performed throughout the world in leading concert halls and cathedrals and has been broadcast on BBC Radio 2, 3 and 4, BBC TV, and on TV channels in France, Italy, Austria, Holland, the Czech Republic and China.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the China Film Philharmonic Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra are among those to have performed his works on stage.

The Francis Brett Young Society has been fund-raising for this project for over three years and has almost reached its £10,000 target to cover the cost of the commission, the copyright and production fees.

Tickets, at £10, are available from the Francis Brett Young Society by visiting or from 0121 440 2460.