Safely Grazing (1998 - for the ballet: Chasing Sheep)

Duration 4’
For keyboard harpsichord and pre-recorded track
Choreographed by Sara Matthews
First performed as part of the 1998 Ballet Central National tour at the Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford

Sara Matthews’ first choreography for Ballet Central used the bright uplifting music of Michael Nyman, his famous Chasing Sheep is best left to Shepherds from the Draughtsman’s Contract (itself a homage to Henry Purcell’s King Arthur). Philip Feeney was asked to add a final movement, which was designed to reflect the particular personalities of the dancers. This was something that became a feature of Matthews’ work for Ballet Central, her ability to capture the group psyche of each individual year.

To match the neo-Baroque of the Nyman, Feeney chose to create a rhythmic harpsichord piece in the manner of a Baroque prelude. It came in after a period of silence, a short solo for Louisa Hassell (later of Scottish Ballet), and was started from a remote control in the pit. On one calamitous occasion on tour in Cannock, the track failed to start because the previous track had not finished, and consequently the remote control had no effect. A passage of inspired improvisation by all ensued.

Four years later Feeney had to make a similar addition to a Nyman score with his Urban Antiphon for Matthews’ choreography, Keeping Pace. On that occasion, he chose to go with the soundworld, heavily featuring the saxophone, rather than stay in the post-modern Baroque style.