Matthew Hawkins and Red Note Ensemble premiere Vesalii Icones at St Magnus Festival

On Tuesday 26 June, dancer and choreographer Matthew Hawkins and Scotland’s contemporary music ensemble Red Note perform a new production and choreography of the iconic Peter Maxwell Davies work Vesalii Icones in the St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall.

Written in 1969, Vesalii Icones is one of Peter Maxwell Davies’s classic works of concert-hall music theatre and is an extraordinarily dramatic, multi-layered fusion of dance and music. Its shape superimposes the 14 stations of the Cross on a series of 16th-century anatomical drawings by Vesalius, with dancer (Matthew Hawkins) and solo cellist (Robert Irvine) as the protagonists.

Matthew Hawkins said: “For each revival of Vesalii Icones, the new choreographer must make a fresh dance. Permanence and impermanence combine. I (the ephemeral one) have been exceptionally taken by the presence of a definitive musical score in the working studio: it is a fixed notation, key to interpretation. Yet the dancer’s thread (not published by Boosey and Hawkes) is to be drawn through the composer’s reference to parallel sequences of anatomical and devotional images. These visual marks (delineations of searing events and our attempted accommodation with them) do not cry out for my depiction as much as invite a reading. They might be scores for dancing.”

This joint collaboration was supported by Edinburgh City Council and Studio Wayne McGregor and was one of 14 arts projects to be awarded funding from The Culture Project Fund, a new culture fund launched by the City of Edinburgh Council. The first exploration into this new work took place July 2017 at Studio Wayne MacGregor in London.

Scored for the classic Fires of London Sextet line-up, the work is filled with unconventional percussion instruments, a honky tonk piano and much allusion to foxtrots as well as medieval and renaissance music. In contrast to the vibrant sonorities of Vesalii Icones, the first half of this new production features the atmospheric piano works inspired by Persia and written during the First World War by the prolific French composer Charles Koechlin.

Robert Irvine said: It’s a great experience to play at St Magnus Festival and the chance to perform these ‘iconic’ pieces there with the incredible Matthew Hawkins is a real highlight for me personally and for Red Note.”

Founded in 1977 the St Magnus Festival has grown from small beginnings into one of Scotland and the UK ‘s most highly regarded and adventurous arts events, featuring classical, folk and jazz music and theatre.

How to Book:

Red Note Ensemble & Matthew Hawkins
St Magnus Festival Vesalii Icones
Tuesday 26 June, 19.30, St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall
Koechlin Excerpts from Les Heures Persanes
Maxwell Davies Vesalii Icones
Matthew Hawkins Dancer/Choreographer
Soraya Ham Dancer
Red Note Ensemble:
Robert Irvine, cello
Tom Hankey, viola
Ruth Morley, flute
Emma Burgess, clarinet
Tom Hunter, percussion
Simon Smith, piano
Pierre-André Valade, conductor
This performance will be presented in the round.
Tickets (Unreserved) £17
Concessions £13
Box Office: or 01856 871445
Duration 1 hour 20 mins