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Gavin Bryars' new Opera North commission premieres in Winestead


Composer Gavin Bryars returned to the county of his birth on Thursday 22 June for the world premiere of his new work Winestead, an Opera North commission for the PRS Foundation New Music Biennial and Hull UK City of Culture 2017.

The 20-minute piece for chamber ensemble received its first ever performance in the 12th century Church of St Germain in the East Riding village of Winestead itself, for a sold-out audience of local residents. Bryars, who was born in nearby Goole, took his inspiration for the work from the eerie landscape of Holderness and Spurn Point, and the life and work of the metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell (1621-1678). Marvell was born in the rectory at Winestead, and is believed to have been christened in the church. A diplomat as well as a poet, he went on to represent the borough of Hull at parliament for almost two decades.

With the evening sun streaming through the church windows and candles glowing around the nave, Bryars led the group on the church organ, with long-term collaborator tenor John Potter, formerly of the Hilliard Ensemble, singing the text based on Marvell’s writings.

Following its premiere Winestead will be performed twice, with a Q&A from Gavin Bryars in between, at Albermarle Music Centre, Hull at 8pm on Friday 30 June. The concert is part of the PRS Foundation New Music Biennial weekend for Hull 2017, a programme of citywide free performances of new music by UK composers including Mica Levi, Anna Meredith and Mark Simpson. Tickets can be pre-booked at or via the Box Office on 01482 30 2017.

A film of the St Germain performance will be screened at 7 Whitefriargate, in Hull City Centre, throughout the PRS Foundation New Music Biennial weekend. Admission is free and there is no need to book.

The following weekend, the PRS Foundation New Music Biennial moves to London, where there will be another free performance of Winestead at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London at 3pm on Saturday 8 July, as part of the PRS New Music Biennial. To book, visit or contact the Ticket Office on 020 3879 9555.

Dominic Gray, Projects Director, Opera North, comments:

Opera North is thrilled to be working with Gavin again, following our previous collaborations on the writings of Shakespeare (Nothing Like The Sun) and the songs of Tom Waits (Mercy and Grand).

Now here we are with Andrew Marvell and the English landscape. Winestead is just 15 minutes long, but it beautifully displays Bryars’ great love of the voice and of immersing audiences in musical atmospheres.

Winestead is the second of Opera North’s commissions for Hull 2017. It follows The Height of the Reeds, a sound walk for the Humber Bridge, which opened in April and has had its sold out run extended until the end of June. Winestead is also the second work by Bryars to be included in Hull 2017; his soundtrack for the stopping train journey between Goole and Hull with poet Blake Morrison, originally commissioned for Yorkshire Festival 2016, is available for download from 1 May – 1 July 2017 from to coincide with the City of Culture celebrations.

Gavin Bryars at the organ in St. Germain, Winestead. Credit: Opera North
Tenor John Potter performs in front of the tomb of Sir Christopher Hildyard, MP for Hedon (c.1568-1634). Credit: Opera North

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