Week 8 – Storm at Sea
Composer: Benjamin Britten (1913 - 1976)
Title: Storm Interlude from Peter Grimes
Genre: Orchestral Suite from an Opera
‘Storm’ is a musical interlude from an opera called Peter Grimes, written by the 20th Century English composer, Benjamin Britten. The opera is a story about a local fisherman, Peter Grimes, and the community in which he lived. It is reminiscent of life in Aldeburgh, the small town on the Suffolk coast where Britten spent much of his life, and it was performed on the beach (in the open air!) in Aldeburgh in 2013, to celebrate the centenary of the composer’s birth.
Benjamin Britten loved the sea. He walked along the beach every day, and a lot of his music was inspired by the sea, how it looked, and how it sounded. This piece of music is taken from a bigger work called an opera, and in between each act of the opera is an ‘interlude’. In total, in Peter Grimes, there are four interludes, each representing a different mood of the sea. This ‘Storm’ interlude comes at the end of the first act. Peter looks out to sea and sees the impending storm. Trouble is brewing…
The Music Today:
The opera Peter Grimes is so popular that two full-length films have been made using the music to tell the story, one in 1981 and one in 1995. The music from the Sea Interlude has also been used in a more modern operatic film called ‘The Answer is Everything’ in 2013, where an operatic company formed of homeless people from around the UK have combined operatic music from many different composers and put them together to create their own unique production. This film also uses one our other 10 pieces, Zadok the Priest! You can watch the film trailer on YouTube here.
Things to do:
- Which parts of the storm can you hear in the music? Which instruments help to create the feel of a storm?
- The tune at the beginning is played on the trombones and then the French horns. Do you know which orchestral family they are from?
- There are three other interludes in the Peter Grimes story as well as Storm. What do you think they are called?
- The mood changes at 2.38. What do you think has happened to the storm at this point?
- If you were to create storm music, which instruments would you use? Why?
You can listen to the Storm Interlude on YouTube.