Commissioned by the Hebden Bridge Piano Festival and premiered at Waterfront Hall on April 27th, 2019
Written for (and performed here by) Rolf Hind
and in memoriam Peter Maxwell Davies
2019 marks the centenary of the scuttling of the German fleet in the bay of Scapa Flow, Orkney. The narration (read by myself) was written after a short visit there in December 2018, and is also inspired by the wonderful scapaflowwrecks.com, where you can virtually visit the sites of the remaining sunken wrecks.
A still day. Low winter sun.
The mountains of Hoy.
The soft hills on the mainland.
The sound of sheep, and one end
of a faint rainbow hits Scapa Flow,
as if to say, here.
Come down, here.
What do you see?
Bodies. Long carcasses,
lodged into the sea-bed.
Whale-like. Ribs. Steel ribs.
Huge twin rudders like fins.
An anchor chain lies curled,
guns hang upside down.
A strange, shattered world.
There are scattered boretubes
and spurling pipes,
hawkers, spars and deck plates.
From the beach at Deep Dale,
you would have seen them.
From White Breast. Midland Ness.
From the lighthouse at the Calf of Cava.
The Calf of Flotta. The Barrel of Butter.
The sea is enamoured with them
over time, brings jewels.
Sea lemons and brittlestars,
moon jellies and dahlia anenomes.
A bow is loaded with coralline seaweed. Sunstars.
So many colours on the salt-rusted metal.
Tangerine, dusk-pink, claret,
buttercream, indigo, bubblegum.
Look. An armoured deck is encrusted
with seamats, shipworms and saddle oysters,
and there, over the rivets and from portholes,
hermit crabs and rock lobsters and queen scallops:
things that scuttle.
The life that comes when men have finished sinking themselves.
Keeled, listed, lulled, enchanted.
These bones have their own songs now.
From ship to coral, from coral to seaweed,
From seaweed to fish, from fish to seal,
From seal to whale, from whale to the cold open air
and the silver stun of the sea.
Words by Kerry Andrew