Gentle Flame reaches Birmingham

New music featuring words of Greta Thunberg to receive world premiere in the city.

A new choral work, featuring the words of ‘climate striker’ Greta Thunberg set to music, will receive its world premiere at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire on Tuesday 12th November.

Also using words by former Birmingham Poet Laureate David Hart, the work – entitled Gentle Flame – makes its debut at the Bradshaw Hall, marking the 30th anniversary of the so-called Peaceful Revolution that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9th November 1989.

Written by Malvern-based composer Liz Johnson, a visiting tutor at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, the new work opens with her own words: “Gentle flame, guide our way” before featuring selected words from Greta Thunberg speeches, calling for action, interspersed with poetry from the award-winning poet David Hart.

Speaking ahead of the world premiere, Johnson said, “The idea for Gentle Flame stemmed from the account of Kurt Masur, long-time music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, taking a stand against the establishment, contributing to the fall of the Berlin Wall the following month.”

During a series of anti-government demonstrations, Masur opened the doors of the Leipzig Gewandhaus concert hall, initiating a meeting of all sides and calling for non-violence and restraint. His influence and intervention helped diffuse tensions at a critical point in East Germany’s history.

“Gentle Flame is a dynamic exploration of the questions we face in modern times and our responsibility to act,” said Johnson, “The final section of the music returns to Greta Thunberg’s words: ‘Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.’”

The concert, which also includes two choral works by Bach, is performed by the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir and Baroque Orchestra, playing on period instruments, conducted by Jeffrey Skidmore OBE, with soloists Samantha Lewis (mezzo-soprano) and violinist Lucy Russell.