The first live performance of Beslan by NICK & TONY BICÂT will take place on Saturday 13 September 2014 in the church of St George the Martyr, London SE1 1JA with Andrew Parrott conducting and Emily Van Evera and Frances M Lynch singing the solos. The programme will also include songs and readings exploring the collaboration between the brothers Bicât.
In September 2004 Islamic separatist militants occupied a school in Beslan, North Ossetia and held over 1,100 people hostage for three days. Their main demand was recognition of the independence of Chechnya at the UN and withdrawal of Russian troops. The siege ended when Russian security forces stormed the school, killing all but one of the terrorists. Of the 334 people killed during the siege, 186 were children.
The tragedy had a powerful effect on brothers Nick and Tony Bicât, whose grandfather, General Tapa Tchermoeff, was President of the short-lived National Assembly of The North Caucasian Republic in 1919. Both brothers were born in England and their grandfather died before they were born but, from what they knew of him, they felt he would have been appalled both by the separatists' action and the storming of the school by the Russian security forces.
Nick is a composer and Tony is a writer and they have worked on many collaborative projects in theatre, film and TV. The event prompted Tony to write a poem – Two Voices – but he felt it was unfinished. He showed it only to his brother and sister and put it away in a drawer.
Two Voices, is a fiction but a fiction built on fact. The First Voice is a single mother taking her daughter to her first day at school, called in Russian 'First Bell' or 'Knowledge Day', a day of flowers and hope for the future. The Second Voice is one of the so-called 'Black Widows', whose husbands had been killed by the Russians. There were three female terrorists, their vests packed with explosives. She too is a mother but one filled with despair. The two women’s identities spring to life in the poem and draw the listener into this dramatic and terrifying story.
When Nick had the idea of setting the poem to music, Tony was surprised. He feels that lyrics and poetry are very different disciplines and had the work been destined for a musical setting, he would have written it very differently. Nick however began to search for a musical voice for the two women. When Tony heard the setting of the words he had written, it gave him the inspiration to write a second part. Nick and he worked together on this at the piano as they usually do with songs.
Nick had also been working with his friend the conductor Andrew Parrott (of Taverner fame) to evolve a musical style without any pre-formed idea of idiom, always searching for the nature of the music itself, and how best to deliver what it seeks to express without affectation or mannerism. For Beslan, Nick combined this approach with research into traditional Caucasian music to find a lean modern style which serves the narrative. The result is a highly concentrated and lyrical piece, full of drama and emotion, where every note counts and the listener is relentlessly drawn into the tragedy as it unfolds.
A recording of Beslan, conducted by Andrew Parrott and featuring Emily Van Evera and Frances M Lynch as the ‘two voices’, is due for release later this year.