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St Mary’s Abbey revived in Yornight finale

Posted on 10 September 2015

A spectacular, specially-commissioned music and light finale to Yornight on 25 September will bring the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey in York back to life.

St Mary's Abbey (credit: Ian Martindale)

Hearing the Past: St Mary's Abbey Reconstructed will recreate the acoustics and sounds of the building, dating from 1088, in a unique cross-disciplinary project from the University of York. The event is part-supported by the HEFCE Higher Education Innovation Fund.

Professor Ambrose Field, composer and Head of the University of York’s Department of Music, has written Archite​x​ture Two - a new piece of music that will be performed by members of the Ebor Singers. Specially written to take account of the reverberation St Mary’s would have if still standing today, he worked with the Department of Electronics who reconstructed the venue’s acoustics.

He worked with Dr Jude Brereton, Dr Helena Daffern, and Amelia Gully from the Department of Electronics who reconstructed the venue’s acoustics using simulated acoustics originally modelled by Stephen Oxnard and Dr Damian Murphy. 

Celebrating the International Year of Light, specially commissioned graphics and lighting have been developed for the event by Professor Thomas Krauss, of the Department of Physics, and musician Lewis Thresh.

St Mary’s Abbey was one of the largest Benedictine establishments in the north of England, and since its dissolution in 1540 has declined into ruin.

YorNight is part of the annual EU-funded European Researchers’ Night, an initiative that showcases research in 300 cities across Europe on the same evening. Over 80 free events will take place in venues across the city on Friday 25 September.

Professor Field said: “This event is a fantastic example of cross-faculty collaboration. It’s been a real pleasure working with the team from Electronics, who have given me precise scientific data which I’ve used directly within my composing process. Being able to know the precise reverberation times of the building has meant I have been able to craft a piece that can bring the resonances of this exceptional historic building to life.”

Architexture 2 is the third piece in a series of works designed around the acoustics of famous buildings which includes Pod Twoja Obrone for 25 solo voices, an international commission to mark Polish composer H.M. Gorecki’s 80th Birthday Anniversary. Expect sparse, luxuriously harmonic textures in a piece of contemporary vocal music where huge vocal textures are inspired by the size and acoustic properties of the space itself.”

The event runs from 8.45pm – 9.15pm in the Yorkshire Museum Gardens, with free admission.

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