May 19, 2011


Paul McCartney has explored music from the top of the pops in 1960s Swinging London, to the avant-garde and electronic, to classical. In 1991, the former Beatle collaborated with Carl Davis to compose his first major classical work, Liverpool Oratorio. The piece was performed live on Saturday, May 21st, by the San Francisco Sinfonietta.

Paul McCartney's
Liverpool Oratorio was created to commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. The piece is structured around eight movements that are loosely based on McCartney's life, entitled War, School, Crypt, Father, Wedding, Work, and Crisis. The narrative and spirit of the music should appeal to readers because it provides a unique snapshot into the world of post-war Liverpool. The final movement includes the song, Do You Know Who You Are?. McCartney once remarked that the idea for that phrase came from the final moments in John Lennon's life, when the ambulance team presumably tried to keep him conscious with questions. McCartney implied that, even in that moment of crisis, his friend was hassled by identity. Liverpool Oratorio was recorded in June, 1991 with Kiri Te Kanawa and other notable performers, and released the following October (two days after Lennon's 51st birthday).

Here are segments of a 13-part documentary about the making of
Liverpool Oratorio, in which McCartney talks about the people and places of his past and about his process as a composer. Readers interested in McCartney's other journeys outside of pop music should explore recordings and documentaries for his works A Leaf, Standing Stone, and Working Classical. His 1967 score for the film, The Family Way, will be re-released on CD by Varese Sarabande on July 26th. More info at the Paul McCartney website here. Also of interest are the new book and website projects celebrating the career of Linda McCartney here. More on Spy Vibe's Beatles page here. Spy Vibe, 1960s Style in Action home. More Beatles-related weekend news below.

Also on Saturday, May 21st, Spy Vibe creator Jason Whiton screened his experimental film for Yoko Ono at the New Media Film Festival in Hollywood, where it won the best mobile film award. More information on the film website here.

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