One World choral work is 'modern creation story'

The London Mozart Players perform Blue Pearl: A One World Oratorio at St Giles Cripplegate in The Barbican 2022

The London Mozart Players perform the world premiere of Blue Pearl: A One World Oratorio with Excelsis and Vox Farnham Chamber Choirs at St Giles Cripplegate in The Barbican on May 14 - Credit: Kevin Day

Zen Buddhist poetry, Reggae rhythms, and a green message about the unity of humans and the earth, are rolled together in a "profound inspirational" choral work by a former Primrose Hill resident.

Steve Banks grew up in Chalcot Square in the 60s and 70s, attending Primrose Hill Primary, and William Ellis School, which fostered his musical talents.

The freelance classical violinist and folk performer's Blue Pearl: A One World Oratorio tells the "story of human evolution" and has its premiere at St Giles Cripplegate on May 14, performed by the London Mozart Players and Excelsis Chamber Choir.

"At Primrose Hill we had a brilliant teacher Hugo Nyman, who wrote music for the orchestra, and at William Ellis there were inspirational music teachers who put together a very good orchestra which played concerts including one at the Albert Hall with Yehudi Menuhin," recalls the 59-year-old.

"It was a very lucky time to be at school. I grew up playing wonderful requiems by Mozart and Faure or Handel's Messiah. Many us in the strings learned from Sheila Nelson who lived in Highgate and was one of the best violin teachers in London."

Banks, who has played for the likes of the London Symphony Orchestra, moved from Tufnell Park to Devon where he continued his musical career.

"I was in a rehearsal with the Plymouth Philharmonic for Verdi's requiem and wondered whether there was a choral work that would express a contemporary spirituality," he explained. "I set out to write something, got to 20 minutes of music, liked it and carried on."

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The idea stems from his personal development and the books of American psychologist and philosopher Ken Wilber.

Steve Banks who has written the Blue Pearl One World Oratorio

Steve Banks who has written the Blue Pearl One World Oratorio - Credit: Supplied

"They are amazing and gave a perspective on psychology and spirituality that made sense to me and squared with my rational skepticism."

Blue Pearl melds classical and contemporary styles with "big band jazzy sections," African influences, world music and a reggae song at the end. Alongside Wilber's works it uses spiritual texts, including a poem by Vietnamese Buddhist Thich Naht Hanh. 

"It's very varied musically," says Banks. "An Oratorio loosely tells a story and the backbone of this is the story of evolution, including the evolution of human consciousness. We started off near apes and over a few thousand years have evolved, but we need to evolve further to realise the earth is a unity.

"It's a modern creation story that shows how humans got to where we are, and looks at what's possible for the future."

Readers can get 15% off tickets for the May 14 concert or to watch live online. Enter coupon HamAndHigh at the checkout.