Luke Bedford: Seven Angels

  • for 7 singers and 12 instruments
  • 1 0 1 1 - 0 1 1 0 - perc, pno, vla(4), cb
  • Duration: 85’
  • Instrumentation details:
    flute (+picc
    alto fl)
    clarinet in Bb (+bass cl(Bb), ratchet)
    bassoon (+cbsn, analogue radio)
    trumpet in C (+flhn, maracas)
    percussion: crotales (2 octaves), steel drum (2 octaves D-D), claves, guiro, sizzle cymbal, large suspended cymbal, large tam-tam, lion's roar, whip, bass drum, analogue radio
    piano(+analogue radio)
    1st viola
    2nd viola
    3rd viola
    4th viola (+vln)
  • Composer: Luke Bedford
  • Librettist: Glyn Maxwell
  • Dedication: For Mum and Dad
  • Commission: Co-commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and The Opera Group with funds generously provided by the John Feeney Charitable Trust.

Work introduction

Seven Angels have fallen through space and time for so long, they have forgotten why. Coming to rest on a desert landscape, they imagine the creation of a legendary garden that once flourished there and its destruction from greed and neglect.

Luke Bedford

John Milton’s Paradise Lost provided a starting point for a meditation on the relationship between humanity and the resources of the earth.  Where the great poem is a symphonic retelling of scripture, Seven Angels was grown from fragments, shards of the poem, as if that huge incandescent structure had toppled from its seat in heaven and shattered into glimpses, dreams, strange tales, lost threads, all strewn across a broken landscape.

In the world of Paradise Lost, we know the story, we know the outcome, we know what Milton intends: the glorious pentameters sound the inevitability of the Devil’s fall from Heaven, Man’s fall from Eden, the Redemption through Christ. Seven Angels grows in a world without inevitability, without known story or outcome, with forms and rhythms that slide and mutate, with causes unclear and effects unknown. This world.

Glyn Maxwell

Seven Angels Revisited

After every piece there is a process of forgetting. At least for me. Once a new piece has been performed, I need to let it go, so that I can create something new. 

I worked on Seven Angels for one and a half years, as well as being there for the rehearsals and the months of planning before Glyn wrote the libretto. Despite the Angels being such a large part of my life, I barely thought about them at all after the performances in the summer of 2011. The recording of the first performance still lies unplayed on my shelf. I had to move on and leave the Angels alone.

But They wouldn't leave me alone. 

Two years later, it is with a mixture of curiosity and nerves that I travel to Hamburg to see them again. The Angels look different, They sound different, and where They are is very different. And yet, They are the same. The same characters that Glyn and I dug up out of Milton somewhere. And the story They tell is the same, although They have a different way of telling it now.

And of course, I haven't really forgotten. Of course I know how the music goes. Having let the Angels have their hibernation-period, it is a pleasure to welcome Them back. 

I am very honoured that the opera is being presented in a new, exciting production here in Hamburg and I am extremely grateful to everybody at the Staatsoper for all their hard work on this project.

Luke Bedford


The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

World première

CBSO Centre, Birmingham (GB)
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
Nicholas Collon

Press reviews

“Atmospheric music, often lyrical and pleasantly marinated in tonality … succulently scored.”
(The Times)

“Bedford’s score is impeccably crafted and it is sensitively played by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.”
(Daily Telegraph)

“A score of substance and ultimate quality combined with beautiful words with extraordinary creative and artistic direction from the creative team and magnificent staging from John Fulljames.”
(Paul Guest/Ceasefire magazine)


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