With my eyes closed, I sense her presence and hear a faint murmur, a sound that cascades into a tune.
This is an overdubbed improvisation in memory of Marie Henderson. A footnote in British theatre history, but in her time (1860-1880) and place (Royal Colosseum, Britannia and Elephant and Castle Theatres) she was a potent force in the world of melodrama.
This orchestration celebrates the public and private life of Marie Henderson.
The first section evokes the power of her performance in the smash hit of 1863: Faith, Hope and Charity. Marie plays Faith, a young clerical widow, cheated out of a property lease and who dies of a broken heart. She returns to haunt the treacherous aristocrat. He repeatedly stabs her image, but as with all good ghosts, she cannot be vanquished. This production employed the latest technological craze of the Victorian stage - Professor Pepper's optical illusion for stage ghosts.
Glockenspiel and bells strike notes of tension or release, delicate or harsh surfaces that play off harp, French horn, strings and clarinet.
For the finale, we find Marie Henderson in 1882 acting out her death. The actress had contracted syphillis (undiagnosed at the time) and ended her days in Bedlam Hospital with her husband by her side.
An electric guitar sets the otherworldly tempo and is a poignant farewell to a theatrical force that had once captured the imagination of Liverpool and London theatre goers.
I feel a tremendous affinity with the psychological soundscapes of Nordic music. Reference points for this composition are Sibelius 5th symphony and ECM Records Terje Rypal's Avskjed.
Detailed blog entry on Marie Henderson.