Sail of Destiny Festival, Pyatigorsk, 13-19 October 2020

Portrait of Lermontov as a child

I am delighted to announce my invitation to perform at the 2nd Sail of Destiny festival honouring the work of the great Russian poet Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov. The festival, which will take place on 13th-19th October 2020 in Pyatigorsk in the Russian North Caucasus, is timed to commemorate the 206th anniversary of Lermontov’s birth in Moscow on the 16th October 1814. As well as participating in various pilgrimages to important Lermontov sites, including the location of his fatal duel on 27th July, 1841, I will be performing excerpts from my Lermontov song cycle entitled Жив поэт! |The Bard is not Dead! at a gala concert and other to-be-announced events.

I have been intensely interested in Lermontov’s work for several years now. Often ranked second only to Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin in the Russian poetic pantheon, Lermontov is, to me, the more interesting poet. Although in terms of the quantity and breadth of his output, Mikhail Yuryevich can’t claim Alexander Sergeyevich’s crown, he still managed to chalk up an extraordinary series of literary – and existential – accomplishments in his short 26 years on this planet. Even at the tender age of 17, he was already capable of sustained artistic brilliance as seen in his long prophetic poem 1831-го ИЮНЯ 11 ДНЯ (translated by me under the title When a harp rings out boldly in eternal halls of fame).

I first encountered Lermontov’s poetry in 2014, the year of his 200th anniversary, which coincided with a conference in Moffat (Scotland), the project to install a bronze bust of Lermontov in the nearby village of Earlston, home of his semi-mythical forbear Thomas the Rhymer (whose surname was Learmonth), and a request from Maria Koroleva – a Lermontov descendant and prominent Scotophile – to translate some of Lermontov’s poems in such a way as to preserve their music. At the same time, I was working with some Middle English manuscripts of Thomas the Rhymer’s semi-autobiographical masterpiece to produce a modern (Scots-) English version entitled Rhyming Thomas and the Faery Queen. Both of these texts would later form the basis for the song cycle Жив поэт! |The Bard is not Dead!

Rhyming Thomas and the Faery Queen was brilliantly translated into Russian by my long-term collaborator Mikhail Feygin under the title Томас Рифмач и Королева Эльфов.

Performing at the Philharmonia in Ekaterinburg with conductor Anton Shaburov

While translating Lermontov’s poetry, I noticed that the music of his language reveals itself through the act of translation. Perhaps this is true of all poetic translation. The result was the song cycle Жив поэт! |The Bard is not Dead!, which is currently being arranged for bard, choir and orchestra by the Ekaterinburg-based violinist and arranger Tatyana Terekhova. The score will be presented at a special event at the Lermontov State Museum-Zapovednik in Pyatigorsk on Saturday 17th October.

At some point, I hope that a performance of Жив поэт! |The Bard is not Dead! will be staged in full format, i.e. bard, choir and orchestra. For this, both artistic collaborators and sponsors will be required. Such a performance can either be in Russian or English (ideally both stagings will happen at some point), bringing the wonderful music of Lermontov’s poetry to life alongside that of his legendary forbear Thomas the Rhymer. If you are interested in helping this project come to fruition, please get in touch.

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