Rebekah looks forward to theatre ‘first’ with the Ulster Orchestra

Rebekah Coffey will be performing in 'Around the World in 80 Minutes' at Theatre at The Mill on May 20. INLT 18-599CON
Rebekah Coffey will be performing in 'Around the World in 80 Minutes' at Theatre at The Mill on May 20. INLT 18-599CON

WHEN soprano Rebekah Coffey steps on stage at the Theatre at The Mill to sing the haunting Knoxville: Summer of 1915, it will be the first time she or the Ulster Orchestra have ever performed it.

Ms Coffey, whose husband Danny McCann-Williams plays violin with the orchestra, is looking forward to performing the piece as part of the ‘Around the World in 80 Minutes’ concert at the Newtownabbey venue on May 20.

The lush work for vocals and orchestra was written by Samuel Barber, one of America’s greatest composers. At the helm on the night will be principal conductor JoAnn Falletta, who also hails from the US.

Barber’s poignant Knoxville: Summer of 1915 piece for voice and orchestra is based on a short story by the celebrated US writer James Agee about his idyllic childhood in Tennessee. It was written a year before his life changed forever with the death of his father.

Barber, who composed the piece in 1947, was born in the same year as Agee and identified with the piece as his own father was dying during the time he was working on it.

Rebekah said: “I have never performed the work before so I’m looking forward to working on it with JoAnn and giving my own interpretation. Barber can be quite a difficult composer but this piece ebbs and flows and gives the laid back feeling of a summer evening in Tennessee. It’s a really beautiful work.”

Since moving back to Northern Ireland in 2008, she has performed regularly with the Ulster Orchestra and worked briefly with Ms Falletta on a Naxos recording of the folk song ‘Lonely Waters’ in January.

“No-one had ever recorded the piece with the vocal before,” Rebekah added. “I came in and sang the short folk melody. But the piece I will be singing on May 20 is quite substantial and I will be singing for 17 minutes with the orchestra.”

The vocal piece is just part of an exciting programme of music from around the world put together by JoAnn Falletta for the concert. The production will give music lovers the chance to hear some truly interesting pieces in the unique setting of Mossley Mill.

The Around the World in 80 Minutes concert will also include a second piece by Samuel Barber, his famous Adagio for Strings, as well as Rossini’s Overture to Italian Girl in Algiers; Kodály’s Dances of Galánta, Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin and Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony.

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