Emily Howard: The Anvil

The imagined sounds of mass protest run through composer Emily Howard’s and poet Michael Symmons Roberts’s The Anvil, commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and the Manchester International Festival to mark the bicentenary of the 1819 Peterloo massacre, in which crowds protesting for universal suffrage in St Peter’s Fields, Manchester, were brutally crushed.

To a solo soprano who narrates and remembers and a baritone who seems caught in the action, the work adds the immense forces of four choirs – each given music tailored to its particular capabilities, from professional to amateur – and the BBC Philharmonic to ask: what future was being forged in the tragic events that took place that day?

A second collaboration between Howard and Symmons Roberts, Elliptics (nominated for a 2023 Ivors Award), is quieter, more elegiac: a meditation on love and death, and on what we hope will survive.

Small and gentle aren't on the agenda in Emily Howard's The Avil....Howard's musical style, jangly and adversarial, entirely suits her subject: the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, where troops charged into a crowd that was demonstrating voting reforms ... The soloists Kate Royal and Christopher Purves, the Halle choirs, the BBC Philharmonic and conductor Ben Gernon thrust us magnificently into the fray"

★ ★ ★ ★

"the first choral entry [The Anvil] reminds me of the opening chorus of J S Bach's St John's Passion ... This is a very powerful work, and all the forces are used very effectively in this evocative and quite compelling piece. It is unashamedly contemporary music, but I have found it one of the most original and fascinating works I have listened to in some time. There is a lot of contrast, with hymns, slogans, marching tunes, industrial sound and rapid changes of mood, and the assembled forces have done a splendid job in delivering a rather startling performance ... Both works are very effective and original. I had never heard of the music of Emily Howard before, but I am sure this won't be the last I hear of this most interesting and innovative composer. She also demonstrates that there is much to be gained from a close collaboration with a poet. The vocal soloists, orchestral and choral forces provide an exemplary recording of two works that would not be easy to perform. This is not a disc that everyone will enjoy, but for those that listen to it, it showcases a composer who is a powerful voice, and one whose music, I believe, will stand the test of time"

read the full review here

"The Anvil is an immersive and emotional experience ... in 'The Field Turns Inside Out, the orchestral assult mirrors the flash of sabres and crush of hooves, voices crying out as chaos reigns. Visceral and brilliant"


'The Anvil succeeds in depicting the horror and devestation of Peterloo. The use of musical gestures, including vivid dynamic juxtopositions, Ivesian superimpositions, popular melody and hymn tunes such as Tallis Canon, is undoubtedly effective ... [Elliptics]has an elliptical ambience ... this creative complex of contrast, capraciousness and atmospheric orchestral accompnaiment that contributes to the work's coherence and to its broader mood of melancholic introspection'


Release Date: 29 September 2023
Catalogue No: DCD34285
Total playing time: 1:06:54

Recorded live on 7 July 2019 (The Anvil) & 29 October 2022 (Elliptics) at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Producer: Tim Thorne (The Anvil), Matthew Bennett (Elliptics) Engineer: Stephen Rinker
24-bit digital editing: Stephen Rinker (The Anvil), Matthew Bennett (Elliptics)

24-bit digital mixing: Paul Baxter
(The Anvil), Matthew Bennett (Elliptics)
24-bit digital mastering: Paul Baxter

Cover image: Getty Images / Manuel Streit
Concert photography: Joel Fildes Design: John Christ
Booklet editor: John Fallas

Delphian Records Ltd – Edinburgh – UK www.delphianrecords.com

NOMINATED 2023 Elliptics


The Anvil:We Walk in Communion


Composer Emily Howard introduces her portrait album 'The Anvil', released on Delphian Records

Album Booklet

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