The Soldier's Tale

29 Jul 2020 - 30 Jul 2020

Adapted by Michael Flanders and Kitty Black

A soldier coming home on leave meets the Devil on a lonely road.  The fiend persuades him to part with his most treasured possession, his fiddle, in exchange for a magical book.  The book enables him to gain immense wealth, but not happiness, so he sets out to reclaim his fiddle.  But a deal with the Devil is not so easily cancelled.

Based on a Russian folk tale, Stravinsky’s enchanting piece for chamber orchestra and actors is narrated and performed by a team of professional Cornish actors and musicians, conducted by Patrick Bailey.  

They say the Devil has all the best tunes, so beware, lest you fall under his spell….

Patrick Bailey biography

Patrick Bailey has conducted concerts with the Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, London Sinfonietta, New Music Players, ViVA, Cambridge University Music Society and many others. He has given concerts across Europe and in Dubai, India, Oman, China and the USA. In this country he has appeared at festivals in Aldeburgh, Brighton, Bath, Buxton and Cheltenham, broadcast concerts and opera for BBC Radio 3 and recorded for NMC and Tartan Film.  He was appointed a Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Associate in 2015 leading their participation work in Cornwall where he now lives. He is the founder and Artistic Director of Kevos, a group of Cornwall-based musicians dedicated to performing contemporary music.  He was Musical Director for the Minack production of Orfeo in 2019.

Review by Jenni Balow

Stravinsky composed and designed The Soldier's Tale, to be played by a small company of seven musicians, plus narrator, as a touring theatre and rapid rouble earner - but guess what, it was 1918 and Russian entertainers were immediately locked-down, in the face of a world pandemic that claimed the lives of millions.

Conductor and musical director Patrick Bailey haunted us with that chilling fact, when he introduced his musicians to the Minack audience that has been shrunk by nearly three quarters, from the usual 800 ticket holders, as we tackle Covid-19.

In another sign of the times, when clarinetist David White's musical score looked ready to take flight in a sudden swirl of a summer breeze, trumpet player Stephanie Barry came to the rescue by securing it with the elastic of her face mask.

The Soldier's Tale is based on a Russian folk story that runs along the lines of selling your soul to the Devil. It was written fast, needs-must, Stravinsky needed to eat, and the music is vivid, earthy and modern.

Fittingly, the narrator was John Brolly, the theatre's very own story teller, who meets the Devil on his way home on leave, and exchanges his treasured violin for the 'magical' book that will make him wealthy.

It doesn't quite work out like that, and the Soldier has to try to put the wrong to right. But the Devil is not playing ball.

The local musicians also helped with the verses, right on cue, under the sure direction of Patrick Bailey, who now lives in Truro. Philip Montgomery Smith, violin, Matt Harrison, trombone, Sally Bartholomew, bassoon, James Robinson, percussion and Zoe Curnow, double bass, completed the sextet.

The narrator marched us through the tale, imitating the violinist, although his bow technique needs refining, and someone needs to find a Russian cap to replace his unsuitable pork pie hat!

These might be troubled times, but everyone lucky enough to be there, was simply happy listening to 'live' music once again.