Giving the miners a voice was one of the biggest challenges of 17 Days. In spite of the dozens of newspaper articles, books and documentaries that have been written to try to describethe miners' existence during the period before their discovery, there is still a hole at the centre of this story - the miners themselves have largely kept their pact of silence.
And yet I felt it was critical to the structure of the work that we reflect events from the miner's perspective below ground, so I commissioned the poet and playwright Carol Lashof to write a sonnet on that subject. The resulting poem, We live in mud, is the black heart of the piece. I've collaborated with Carol on a number of projects over the years, including two operas, and she has a very special ability to write not just great poetry, but also to write singable texts instinctively.
Here is a great example from halfway through the poem: 'Aloud I say that help will come, but fear, / like dust, comes in with every breath, and I -/ I am so afraid of losing you, my dear.' Elegant, simple, heartfelt verse with lots of generous vowel shapes - aloud, fear, breath, losing, dear - all absolutely perfect for me as a composer and also gratifying for the singers to perform.
CEFC are truly the most adventurous and exciting choir in the world at the moment and it's truly humbling to hear my music performed so beautifully at the rehearsals. All I can say is that it's going to be a very special concert indeed. Grab some tickets while you still can - I'll see you there!