Richard Harvey/Ralph Steadman - Plague & The Moonflowers
Plague and the Moonflower draws us inside a world uneasy with itself, trembling on the brink of the millennium and haunted by muddled dreams and sombre fears. All around, there is evidence of rivers and oceans soured, lands blighted and a creation sapped and tainted by the Plague Demon, the dark and grasping side of man’s flawed nature.
As the Plague Demon turns his attention to the lush, fragile forests of the Amazon, Nature’s last refuge from human greed and lust for progress, a transformation occurs. Suddenly unexpectedly, he sees and falls in love with the Moonflower, the strange, magical cactus that flowers just once a years, drawn into bloom by the moonlight. The beautiful, frail plant survives in the deep rainforest - a powerful icon of purity and love, but ambiguous too, for it is a parasite, stealing its strength from other plants. The Plague Demon changes his tune, redeemed by love, and the ethereal song of the Moonflower soars away in an ecstasy of life, a miracle of resilience and mystery.
A corner has been turned. As the pulse of life reasserts itself, the Chorale looks forward to a better future, free from fear and oppression. Drawing on memories of pure and ancient dreams, it leads on to a dramatic climax in which the millennium marks a critical moment and a chance to rebuild spoilt lives and reshape Man’s place in the world.
Plague and the Moonflower was commissioned by Richard Gregson-Williams in 1989 for the Exeter Festival.
“This recording, made originally back in 1999, brings together an impressive array of musical and dramatic talent. Ben Kingsley, Penelope Wilton and Ian Holm are all ‘household names’ owing to their appearances on the small screen. Guitarist John Williams and highly respected string players Richard Studt and Roger Chase are all big names in the musical world. Then there are the three outstanding choirs, plus an orchestra made up of such stars as trumpeter Maurice Murphy (now sadly deceased) and horn player Frank Lloyd. There are parts, too, for more unusual instruments, such as mandolin, charango, zamponas (Pan flutes of the Andes), and even an electric trumpet. All of these contribute to an exceptionally rich musical palette, which Harvey deploys resourcefully in telling his story. The text set by Richard Harvey is by Ralph Steadman, and one of the great attractions of this issue is the accompanying booklet, which not only gives all the words but interleaves them with beautiful illustrations by Steadman – worth the price of the disc in themselves.” Gwyn Parry-Jones, musicweb-international.com
'The performance is superbly atmospheric and the sound is big and bold. Turn it up and wallow in the impact produced by the splendid sonics. The deluxe packaging is a lavish booklet with a complete libretto and page after page of beautiful artwork by Ralph Steadman. When I received this CD and saw the word plague in its title I was expecting an hour of grimness. It turned out to be just the opposite.' John Whitmore