AFTER a lifetime spent
promoting the word of God, the Dean of Durham, the Very Revd
Michael Sadgrove, will tomorrow find himself performing as the
Voice of God.
For the Dean, featuring
as the Almighty in a production of Benjamin Britten's opera
Noye's Fludde in Durham Cathedral is a reminder of his
childhood in north London.
In 1959, aged nine, he
appeared in a performance at All Saints', East Finchley, near his
home in north London. Back then, he played the more lowly role of a
goat, but the experience sparked a lifelong affection for the works
"The singer Owen
Brannigan lived three doors down from us," Dean Sadgrove said. "He
had played Noye in the 1958 première. I can't remember exactly what
happened, but I think he probably told me: 'They are performing
Noye's Fludde in a church down the road. You would enjoy
"I went along, and was
signed up as a sheep in the chorus. Then, somehow, on the day of
the performance, I got in the wrong queue for costumes and ended up
as a goat. I was a bit confused, but just got on with it. It's only
now I think of the significance for a priest of being a goat rather
than a sheep."
The young Michael wrote
to the composer, saying how much he had enjoyed taking part, and
how he had liked the music, and enclosed a copy of the programme.
"I had been brought up on the likes of Schubert and Beethoven, but
this was fascinating modern, contemporary music.
"My mother told me that
there was no chance I would get a reply: Britten was far too busy
and important a man to bother; but, three days later, back came a
personal, handwritten letter. My mother was speechless, but I was
thrilled. I still have it."
"I never met Britten, but
I think children were very special to him, and they were
inspirational for many of his major works. Durham Cathedral is a
marvellous setting for Noye's Fludde. He wrote it for
performance in the hard, bracing environment of a church, not the
cosy comfort of a theatre."
He said that he had done some private practising before this
week's dress rehearsal. "The Voice of God is a hard part - as it
should be. It uses medieval English, and it is my role to make that
as understandable as possible. At least as a priest I have plenty
of experience of public speaking."