Sadie Harrison-Coffee with Aphra Benn: Westminster Abbey Cloisters

Posted on September 23rd, 2012 by

Sadie Harrison-Coffee with Aphra Behn: Westminster Abbey Cloisters (September 2012)

Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin Outtake recorded in the presence of the composer, June 18th 2014-Aldbury (Engineer Jonathan Haskell)

This was a very moving moment in recording with the composer. Sadie was searching for a radiant approach to this movement-that as the material built, it should feel natural, unforced. We spoke about Messiaen, and of course, there was a certain amount of laughter, that it is possible to write a movement this difficult, with no sharps and flats! The piece is written about a medieval building, so the wonderful church of St John the Baptist was perfect to record in. Needless to say, I don’t drink coffee in a recording session, just Verbena Tea….

    Notes from the time of composition-2012

    Sadie Harrison has written a word about the latest exquisite miniature in her series, based on my drawings. Yesterday (September 22nd, she wrote):

    Here is the next piece in the set which I am calling ‘Gallery’./It’s a reworking of a 14th century ‘Gloria in excelsis’ from the Worcester School. It seemed a fitting companion to your Coffee with Aphra Behn – a reflection on her gravestone text and the surroundings./I know that the double/triple stoppings are not always playable exactly as I have written them and that the score is an ‘ideal’. The most important quality is one of restrained exaltation, where nothing is hurried but there is a sense of progression, also a certain gravitas. You will understand. Practically, this means that the gracenotes should always speak as harmony notes with as much sustain as possible between all notes – a choir really if you can manage it!(Sadie Harrison-E mail 22nd September 2012)


    A word of explanation. My wife and I have a tradition, on rainy afternoons when there is a little less to do, of walking to Westminster, and visiting the grave of Aphra Behn. She is pretty close to a a saint in our household, and


    Love Arm’d

    -Aphra Behn (1640-1689)


    Love in Fantastique Triumph satt

    Whilst Bleeding Hearts around him flow’d,

    For whom Fresh Paines he did Create,

    And strange Tyrannick power he show’d;

    From thy Bright Eyes he took his fire,

    Which round about, in sport he hurl’d;

    But ’twas from mine, he took desire,

    Enough to undo the Amorous World.

    From me he took his sighs and tears,

    From thee his Pride and crueltie;

    From me his Languishments and Feares,

    And every Killing Dart from thee.

    Thus thou and I, the God have arm’d,

    And sett him up a Deity;

    But my poor Heart alone is harm’d,

    Whilst thine the Victor is, and free


    Her grave seems a place to visit after a journey-I notice in my notebooks, that the visits invariably take place on my return to London. In all of them, pigment is provided by the espresso (last time, very good) available in the Cloister.

    Most recent visit to Aphra Behn. August 30th 2012