The Unthanks and Emily Brontë come together in brand new commission
New project, ‘The Emily Brontë Song Cycle’, will be premiered live at Leeds Town Hall on 21 December 2018
The Emily Brontë Song Cycle is a new work commissioned by the Brontë Society, written and recorded using Emily Brontë’s piano in her home, by composer, pianist and producer Adrian McNally of the band The Unthanks, and performed with sisters Rachel & Becky Unthank.
The Emily Brontë Song Cycle, funded with support from Arts Council England, will be available on record from The Unthanks; as a unique listening experience on the moors at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, and in concert as a live premiere at Leeds Town Hall on December 21st 2018.
The Unthanks have taken ten Emily Brontë poems and turned them into song. As the Brontë family home in Haworth, Yorkshire, is now a working museum, the writing and recording had to take place after nightfall. Adrian McNally wrote the music for the whole record during his first evening at Emily’s piano, a rare example of a 5-octave cabinet piano, probably made in London between 1810 and 1815. The days of the residency were spent working on the songs on a beautiful German upright at nearby Ponden Hall - another house associated with the Brontë family - before testing his work in progress on Emily’s instrument at the Museum each evening. Several weeks later, McNally returned to the Parsonage with Rachel & Becky Unthank to record the songs, late into the night.
Kitty Wright, Executive Director of The Brontë Society, commented: “This year we have celebrated the 200th anniversary of Emily’s birth with four stunning new commissions covering film [‘Balls’, Lily Cole], poetry (Patience Agbabi), visual art (Kate Whiteford) and now music and it is wonderful to bring the year to a close with this work by The Unthanks. The time spent by Adrian creating the song cycle has been a pleasure to witness as it came to life in the Museum, bringing music back into the rooms where the whole family had enjoyed the same piano so many years ago. The link between Emily’s words and the wild surroundings of the moors has an eternal fascination for visitors and we look forward to how the song cycle and listening experience brings a new interpretation to the well-trodden paths around the area the Brontës knew so well.”
The Unthanks selected the Emily Brontë poems that spoke to them most, including ‘Shall Earth No More Inspire Thee’, ‘High Waving Heather’, ‘Lines (The Soft Unclouded Blue of Earth)’ and ‘The Night Is Darkening Round Me’. The award-winning band are synonymous with bringing historic-based projects to life, drawing attention to subjects including the Foundling Museum, The Children’s Employment Act of 1842, the shipbuilding and coal-mining industries, as well as underlining the work of important artists such as Molly Drake, Robert Wyatt and Graham Miles.
While Tyneside sisters Rachel & Becky Unthank are commonly associated with the traditional music of the North East, bandmate, writer & pianist Adrian McNally is actually Barnsley born & bred and delighted to be working with some iconic Yorkshire heritage again, having previously composed for Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band to perform with The Unthanks in 2011.
The Emily Brontë Song Cycle can be experienced in three different ways:
The Unthanks: Lines - Part Three ‘Emily Bronte’
Available on 10-inch vinyl, CD and download, The Unthanks’ new ‘medium-play’ release is available exclusively from www.the-unthanks.com and the Brontë Parsonage Museum shop from December 7 2018 and then through general retail release from 22 February 2019.
The Unthanks release ‘The Emily Bronte Song Cycle’ as the third part of Lines, a trilogy of records inspired by poetry, and portraying female perspectives from different points in time.
The lines in Part One - ‘Lillian Bilocca’ were written by actor and writer Maxine Peake and turned into song by McNally. The songs were originally performed live by The Unthanks in ‘The Last Testament of Lillian Bilocca’, the acclaimed site-specific theatre event written by Peake for Hull City of Culture, about the Hull Triple Trawler Disaster of 1968 in which 58 men lost their lives.
The lines for Part Two – ‘World War One’, are those of WW1 poems and letters and focusing on the lesser heard female voices from the time. The songs were originally conceived for a live audio-visual project called ‘A Time and A Place’, which took place in 2014, the opening year of WW1 centenary commemorations, The Unthanks deciding to release them in this, the final year. The three records – ‘Lillian Bilocca’, ‘World War One’ and ‘Emily Brontë’, can be bought as a trilogy in a neat slipcase, or as individual records.
A Live Premiere
Leeds Town Hall
21 December 2018
The Unthanks premiere The Emily Brontë Song Cycle at Leeds Town Hall on December 21 2018. Supported by You Tell Me (featuring Sarah Hayes and Field Music’s David Brewis) this is currently the only planned live performance.
‘Shall Earth No More Inspire Thee - Emily Brontë Song Cycle’
A unique audio experience on the moors with The Unthanks
17 December 2018 – 31 March 2019
The Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth, West Yorkshire
From 22 November, visitors can pre-book to reserve headphones from the Brontë Parsonage Museum to experience the Emily Brontë Song Cycle while treading in her footsteps through the churchyard and over the dramatic moorland the Brontë family were inspired by. Taking in views of Top Withins, the ruined house location which many believe to have been Emily’s inspiration for Wuthering Heights, audiences will simultaneously journey through her poems and the landscape that inspired her, accompanied by this newly commissioned music written and recorded on her original piano.
Booking is available online: https://www.bronte.org.uk/whats-on/767/shall-earth-no-more-inspire-thee/805
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