The Unknown Bird - The Life, Poetry and Music of Ivor Gurney

Auditorium 115 Plan, Thursday 14 Oct 2021, 19:30  - ends at 21:00

The Unknown Bird is a dramatic musical story of the life of the composer poet, Ivor Gurney, 1890-1937, one of the foremost composers of song in the first half of the last century. The story is interspersed with Gurney's songs and poems and songs from some of his contemporaries, namely George Butterworth, C.W.Orr and Gerald Finzi.

Gurney's natural eccentricities evolved, after his involvement in the First World War, into manic and disturbing behaviour, much of which was blamed, at the time, on shell-shock and being gassed. Recent research has shown however that Gurney suffered from Bi-polar Disorder. His family had him sent to a mental hospital, where he spent the last fifteen years of his life.

Gurney was a prolific songwriter and poet and today it is estimated that over two thirds of his work is unpublished. This is a moving story of a genius whose mental health seemed to both inspire and conspire against him. We begin at his home in Gloucester in 1900, journey with him through the Cotswold countryside, visit London, briefly before war, then move to the trenches of the Somme and Ypres. We witness the sadness of his unrequited love and his mental breakdowns that inevitably led to his death in December 1937.

The performance includes performances from three actors, a narrator and pianist.

William Drew-Batty (baritone) plays Ivor, accompanied by pianist, Will Fergusson and with visual images created by Polly Wright.

The duration of the play is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.


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