A Peterloo Parade

overture for orchestra

Kevin Malone

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overture for orchestra

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Composer Kevin Malone
Year of Composition 2019
Duration ca.10'
ISMN 9790570682928

Categories (all composers)
Catalogue ID ce-km1app1


On 16 August 1819, 70,000 people – mostly textile workers – gathered at St Peter’s Square, Manchester, UK, to protest against poor wages and working conditions in mills and the lack of parliamentary representation regarding taxation. Some walked 20 miles to the square, and everyone wore their best Sunday clothes. Despite the crowd being unarmed, Manchester City magistrates ordered the cavalry, armed with sabres, to repeatedly charge the crowd, killing and injuring hundreds of peaceful protestors.

A Peterloo Parade (2019) celebrates the workers’ jovial, peaceful gathering with tunes known to have been performed that morning before the massacre: “See, the Conqu’ring Hero Comes!”, “Rule, Britannia!” and “God Save the King”. One protestor was a professional bassoonist, and so it is fitting that this musical parade opens with this lesser-heard solo instrument. The 19C tunes are juxtaposed with chants I heard at social and political rallies in the USA and UK from 2016 to 2017. No matter which century it is or how lyrics change to illuminate the zeitgeist of the era, music becomes a boisterous mash-up when people rally for the betterment of everyone in society.

A Peterloo Parade was originally written for piano – The People Protesting Drum Out Bigly Covfefe (2017) – a commission from international artist Adam Swayne who gave it performances and broadcasts in the USA ad UK, and recorded it to acclaim and awards on Coviello CD 91818. It is published by Composers Edition.

The orchestral version was funded by Arts Council England and the RWV and Ida Carroll Trusts. It was premiered by The Orchestra of Opera North conducted by Robert Guy on 3 May 2019 at Morley Town Hall, West Yorkshire. It received five performances that month in a region where the dwindling textile industry still manages to produce fine cloth and fine communities.

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