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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - McCartney: Liverpool Oratorio

05/18/2014 1:00 pm
05/18/2014 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Paul McCartney of Beatles fame decided to accept the commission to compose something for the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society, partly in order to force himself to master the system of Western musical notation. A natural, if unlettered, musician from the first, he had never actually learned to read or write music properly until circa 1989,when he began work on the Liverpool Oratorio (1991).

The oratorio deals in part with the story of Paul's life in the city of his birth: coming into the world in wartime, his schooldays, his parents and meeting his wife Linda. Carl Davis, then the conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, acted as Paul's mentor in the composition of this monumental work for full orchestra, five vocal soloists (one of whom is Dame Kiri Te Kanawa), adult choir and the boy choristers of Liverpool Cathedral. (As a lad Paul auditioned to be a chorister there, but was turned down.) The Liverpool Oratorio was recorded in the cathedral live in performance. Carl Davis conducted the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Choir. McCartney himself produced the recording for EMI.

I broadcast the two EMI silver discs on Sunday, November 22,1992. It's worthy of note that Sir Paul's oratorio has over the years come to be considered a "classic," and certainly all those memorable pop tunes he wrote have also become classics,too, in their own way. Liverpool Oratorio has been reissued in the EMI Classics line. I work from the two-CD reissue today.