“Lighting The Dark is fundamentally about Christmas not being easy for everyone, while maintaining that euphoric festive energy,” composer Martin Green tells me.
Commissioned by Opera North “who wanted something Christmassy, with folk music and brass,” it takes us on a seismic journey of pre-Christian music and story-telling, right up to the present day, and is set in the unlikely scenario of an Argos queue.
“I knew I would wander around the theme for a while,” Martin smiles, “but fundamentally I am trying to make a Christmas show that I would enjoy. Because while I have always struggled with the environmental impact of Christmas, and the pressure to have the most fun, it’s also about human connections and how wonderful that can be.”
Gathering a host of remarkable friends to join him on his journey through the ups-and-downs of the festive season via music, story-telling, folklore, ancient traditions and modern imaginings, Lighting The Dark has been a real labour of love for Martin.
“It’s about finding the right balance,” he adds, “and anyway, I would never make a truly miserable piece,” he laughs, “that would be too easy.”
Martin is a multi-award winning musician and Ivor Novello winning composer who won Best Group at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards four times with multi-award winning experimental folk trio Lau, as well as a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists.
And yet despite all the accolades, he’s not sure he’s a Christmassy person, so when Opera North asked him to make a Christmas show, he was quite surprised.
So where did he start? “By writing a story based around my neighbour in the small Scottish village where I live, because I don’t have a meaningful social relationship with them. Christmas gives you the opportunity to change that, so that’s where I started,” he says.
“Then I add in the music I’ve been working on, (building in the audio is the best bit for me), which I play to to the musicians and we’re away.”
Featuring accordion and electronics, the fiddle of Ultan O’Brien and improviser Laura Jurd on trumpet, together they portray old music and Christmas stories in a new light.
Having premiered last year to great acclaim, OCM is now bringing Lighting The Dark to Oxford’s Wesley Memorial Hall on Saturday December 16. BOOK HERE
“We have to have a way of collectively being together, so I am continually trying to coax people out, and Christmas is one of them. Its a tradition to go out and watch a Christmas show or a panto, so this is an alternative and a way of doing something together because we need to see and meet other humans.
“It’s not a preachy show. So while it might not change Christmas for you, it may make you more accepting and less grumpy,” he laughs again. “Otherwise just come and enjoy the whole experience. It’s nice to sit and think about Christmas
“So I’m really exited about coming to Oxford. I’ve always felt very at home there and OCM brings so many meaningful things to the city so I’m happy to be in Oxford at Christmas time.”
Lighting The Dark is at Oxford’s Wesley Memorial Hall on Saturday December 16. BOOK HERE