The Frontline Worker

for speaker and ensemble

--- Susannah Self

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Composer Susannah Self
Year of Composition 2020
Duration ca.14'
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Catalogue ID ce-ss1tfw1

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Commissioned by The Skipton Camerata, 2020.

This commission is so interesting because of its orchestration for actor/narrator and 7 players and because of the intriguing script created by Kamal Kaan. The Frontline Worker which is a combination of stand-up comedy interfaced with the tragedy of a nurse faced with the lack of PPE and ventilators in the NHS during Lockdown. She becomes broken by watching patients die and subsequently leaves her job. There is a Kafkaesque quality to this scenario so I am glad the words will be spoken rather than sung, because the humanistic message is too important to be possibly lost on a vocal line. The orchestration is of course identical to Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale but I am aiming for a more naturalistic. A trap in composing for narrator and ensemble is that the music can become too descriptive of the text and the piece ends up becoming parody of itself although I admit I use a whip and whistle! But parallel to the anarchic hilarity I want to convey the extremely pitiful situation that frontline workers have been forced into during the Covid crisis. Therefore there is thoughtful music in juxtaposition to the comedy.