A Watch of Seven Nightingales (1996)

Duration: 21’
For live piano and pre-recorded track with Hugh McDowell (cello) and Rick Koster (violin)
Choreography: Michael Keegan-Dolan
First performed at the Lilian Bayliss Theatre, London as part of the 1996 Ballet Central National Tour.

Keegan-Dolan’s A Watch of Seven Nightingales was an interpretation of Lorca’s The House of Bernada Alba, in which seven suppressed daughters finally rebel against a tyrannical father with the help of a mysterious randy gardener.

Musically, the whole score is a giant passacaglia, which is more or less strict in that, however much it is fragmented and disguised, the theme is always present in some shape or form. Indeed it is possible to say that, in a strange way, it charts the history of music from the Baroque through to the synthesizer age. It starts, after the ticking of a grandfather clock signalling years of repression, with McDowell’s solo cello which expounds the subject of the passacaglia. Gradually the music moves from being predominantly baroque to being predominantly late twentieth century, by way of the piano extemporisation of the theme and Koster’s dynamic rock violin.

There is a gradual acceleration throughout the piece, which helps retain both the momentum and the tension. By the time of an explosive electronic drum solo, with its echoes of Feeney’s previous score for Keegan-Dolan, Kiss Kiss, the music is running twice as fast as at the beginning, so when the theme returns at its original tempo for its dramatic resolution, it is twice as slow as the previous music; this sudden pullback helps create a powerful climactic end to the work.