The Last Journey of the Princess Elizabeth

I will be premiering a new commission from Rachel Stott alongside Façade, by Edith Sitwell and William Walton, on February 4th.  The new work celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth.  

In her programme note, Rachel writes: “Researching this piece led me to explore the background to the death of King George VI in February 1952 and the dramatic nature of Elizabeth’s final hours as a princess; it also led me to the discovery that another ‘Princess Elizabeth’, a steam train of the Great Western Railway’s ‘castle class’, was withdrawn in February 1952, after a 40 year working life, and came to its final resting place in Swindon (where the first performance is taking place).

The instrumentation of the piece is the same as for Walton’s Façade, flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, cello, percussion and voices.  I have taken a few lines from Edith Sitwell’s poem ‘Mariner Man’ (set by Walton in Façade) for the central section of the piece.  The text of the opening and closing sections is a line written in the register at Tree Tops Hotel, Nyeri, Kenja by Jim Corbett, the famous hunter and adventurer who accompanied the Princess and Duke on that memorable occasion:  For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into a tree one day a Princess, and after having what she described as her most thrilling experience, she climbed down the next day a Queen”.