The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb
by Mervyn Peake

Mervyn Peake - The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb

BBC Radio 3

Broadcast: Thursday 9th August 1973

"The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb" is a narrative and dramatic poem written by Mervyn Peake in 1947 that had been inspired by the wartime air-raids on London. But it wasn't until fifteen years later that he published it with his felt-pen illustrations in 1962.

It's about a sailor wandering London during a World War II air-raid who finds a new-born baby in the debris. He takes refuge with the child in an empty church, where it amazes him by levitating and speaking. A dialogue follows between the child, fresh from eternity, and the man mired in the temporal world, about life and death. At dawn, a flying bomb falls on the church, killing them both.

The first broadcast of this poem occurred on Wednesday 26th August 1964, on the BBC Third Programme by the late Laurence Gilliam, his last production on the air. The poem was married throughout to music specially composed and directed by Tristram Cary in an arrangement for piano, woodwinds, percussion, and tape with two spoken parts. "One of the happiest marriages of spoken word and music that the Third has yet produced" (Glasgow Echo).

This broadcast is a new stereo production of this melodrama done by Terence Tiller with revised score by Tristram Cary.

With Frank Duncan [Male Narrator / Sailor] and Olwen Griffiths [Female Narrator / Child].

Music composed and directed by Tristram Cary who also made the electronic tape.

The instrumentalists were Robert Docker (piano); Tristan Fry (percussion); John McCall (clarinet); Sidney Sutcliffe (oboe); and Edward Walker (flute).

Produced by Terence Tiller.

30 minutes.


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