Category Archives: Siege of Gozo

Advertisement

As a living poet I have always held a torch to tradition, using models like pillars on which to build my own poetical buildings. The Conchordia Folio is no different, for any self-respecting poet of substance, if turning to the dramatic arts, should really be focussing on the eminent dramatic poet of the language & his body of work.

But there is emulation & there is evolution, & for my own essay into theatre I have taken on board the love of my own zeitgeist for the Broadway/West End musical which has created, when blended with Shakespearean iambic pentameter, what I have call’d ‘Conchordia.’ In its purest essence it means ‘with chords,’ & all the songs I have provided for the conchords can be played on an acoustic guitar.

One must also praise the folk duo ‘The Flight Of The Conchords,’ who really raised the bar as to what an individual performer must be – part singer, part songwriter, part actor, part comedian, part dancer, etc… i.e. all the muses operating in a single bodily space.

The first 13 conchords of the CONCHORDIA FOLIO are;

LEITHOLOGY
Alibi
Tinky Disco
Gangstaland
Timewarpin’
No Nay Never

GODS OF THE RING
Fight Of The Century
Sunshine Showdown

LYRICAL HISTORIES
Flight of The White Eagles
Malmaison
Stars & Stripes
The Siege of Gozo
Charlie
Viriathus

Millhouse Green
22/04/21


The Conchordia Folio: An Interview with Damian Beeson Bullen (September 2019)

IMG_20200227_143311.jpg

Ever imagined what would have happen’d
If the Stone Roses had teamed up with Shakepseare? The Mumble caught up with the man behind it all…


Hello Damo. So you are here to talk about your new project, the Conchordia Folio – what’s it all about?
Hello Mumble. Well, in essence the folio is a collection of dramatic scripts, per se, rather like the Shakespearean folio. The only difference is I’m assembling it myself, whereas the Bard’s was collated by his pals a few years after his death. It should be ready in book & audio form by the Spring. There’ also an element of competition here – why not, you only get one life. As a poet I’ve written a better epic than Milton, but Shakespeare seems untouchable. But so were Liverpool FC before Fergie got the Man U job, & after declaring he wanted to ‘knock them off their fuc£king perch’ he went on to do so. I know I’m definitely a better bass-payer than Shakespeare, so I knew had to incorporate music into my scripts, play to my strengths kinda thing. Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock Shakespeare off his feffin perch!

So how exactly do you intend to ‘Knock Shakespeare off his feffin perch?’
I mean look, if a guy can run a marathon in less than two hours, another guy can outdo Shakespeare. Its the whole point of being human right, to better ourselves. Methodwise, its simple really. I’ve tried to outdo his sonnets already, creating a sequence of 154 which if you put against Shakespeare’s 154, I think I’ve got the edge. So it’ll be the same idea with the plays. I need to create a canonical 37 which when placed next to Shakepseare’s own 37, lets leave it to posterity to decide. My edge, I think, is going to be more penetrable language, shorter pieces & some proper banging tunes.

35062508_10156430365647520_5136386788406853632_n
Performing Alibi at Eden Festival, 2018

Thirty Seven plays – thats an awful lot to create in a single sitting – how long do you think will it take to achieve?
Well, I’ve written/been writing an epic poem, Axis & Allies, since 2001, so I can handle large projects no problemo. But I have set myself a time limit. With Shakespeare writing his last play, The Tempest, over the winter of 1610-1611, then he was 46 years old, approaching 47. For an even playing field, then, I need to be finishing my 37th play about the same time. I turn 47 in June 2024, so I’ve got just under four years to finish them all. Its totally doable, by the way, & watching that guy run a sub-two-hour marathon thro sheer hard work & dedication inspired me. I guess its a bit like if you got an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters, or whatever it was, one of them would randomly recreate the works of William Shakespeare OR you get one very determined bard from Burnley on an emulation mission creating something rather like the complete works of William Shaksepeare.

So what exactly is Conchordia?
Well. Its essentially the artform I’m inventing. Stripped down to its most basic level the term can be interpreted as ‘with chords’ – the idea is that one can witness a piece of drama accompanied by a single acoustic guitar. That’s the core. Then, I realised that guitar could be played by a performer, which reminded me of the very funny Flight of the Conchords duo. They are like proper multi-taskers – acting, singing, dancing, playing guitars – that’s what I want ‘Conchordian’ to be able to do. Act, sing, dance & playing instruments when they’re not on stage – even if its just percussive. Also, since Concord the airplane is now defunct, the name is up for grabs these days & I like idea of people going for a ride in one of my conchords.

What traits & attributes sets Conchordia apart from the other arts?
Each of the Conchordia has different DNA – there’s some that are just rock opera with barely any dialogue, & some that are simply musicals with an acoustic guitar. My later creations, however, are definitely realising a vision of theatre I have been developing. As a poet I have a gift for blank verse – its the most artistic way of expressing human speech. Shakespeare used it, so it can’t be that bad right? It certainly feels like at this point in time I’m the leading exponent of dramatic blank verse on the planet. I mean I just love it – there is a dynamic flow in those unrhymed five-stress ten styllable lines that  seems like the dream of ordinary speach in a greater version of humainity – the idealised tongue. The English also have a genius for songwriting, while the Americans have mastered the musical. So if we blend all these together – Shakespearean blank verse, English songwriting, plus a wee splash of Broadway, you get Conchordia.

What other musical instruments are used in Conchordia, apart from the percussion?
Well, to be honest, there’s no limit. I’m going off the old edict that for a song to be a good song it needs to sound good sung on its own with only an acoustic guitar. But any producer of a conchord may use that basis to add an orchestra, or a rock & roll band, anything they like really. Each text also has a few ‘set’ pointers, which may also be interpreted as the company sees fit.

Have you performed any of your conchords yet?
I have actually – last year I put on a piece called Alibi at the Haddington Corn Exchange & also at the Eden Festival. It was fun – everyone enjoyed performing it & watching it. Doing Alibi made me realise I was onto something & began to look at my past pieces.

Your past pieces, what do you mean?
Alibi was the first slice of musical theatre I ever did – in 2007 & 2008. I was wintering in Sicily & got an acoustic guitar for Christmas, 2006. I then started looking at my old songs, connecting the common threads & adding a story. Bingo, my first conchord! I performed a it a few times in Edinburgh, Sheffield & Leeds. Next was a piece called Charlie, about the Jacobite rebellion, which I made into a film. About that period, & ever since, I’ve created a few others, but all in sketch form, in various states of completion. The Conchordio Folio is the moment I get them all nailed – a line in the sand, so to speak.

What Conchords are to be included in the Folio?
Like I said before, 37. The first five come together in a quintology  called Leithology. There’s Alibi, Gangstaland, one I haven’t given a title to, a time-travelling one called Timewarpin’ & Tinky Disco. The idea is that they all interlink through characters, who each get a main musical to strut their stuff in. Like the X-Men franchise. Tinky Disco is based loosely upon The Tinky Disco Show, & will see the return of DJ Brooklyn – like a 21st century Falstaff. There are quite a number of histories – Charlie, Finnesburgh – based on a story in Beowulf – Malmaison, which tells the story of Napoleon on his return to Paris after Waterloo, one about Princess Diana, & Gods of The Ring, about the Foreman, Ali, Frazier fights in the 70s. There’s also a trilogy called The Rock & Roll Wars, its essentially a battle of the bands on a cosmic level. There’s Exes & Axes, a 19th century tale of romantic betrayal set in 19th century France – it doesn’t quite fit with any of the others, but its really funny.


10527286_1471334896447833_7271632639021513877_n

Composing Conchordia: Provence (February 2020)

received_1039007066465346.jpeg
At the teddy bear shrine of Elizabeth Drummond

Just as Shakespeare toured Italy as a prelude to the writing of his Italian plays, when deciding to compose a conchord on Gaston Dominici, I thought a story-hunting trip to Provence in order to commune with the ghosts of that most famous of 20th century crimes would surely help my craft. The crime in question is the 1952 roadside murder of nutritionist Sir Jack Drummond, his wife & their 10 year old daughter. They had camped for the night near a farmhouse owned by Gaston Dominici, a 75 year old patriarch in whose barn was kept the WW2 carbine which shot Sir Jack & his wife, & then clubbed to death little Elizabeth. A shocking case which brought the world to the Durance Valley & also sucked to the surface old family quarrels & familiar local feuds which in the end saw Gaston sentenced to death. In the clear light of seven decades it seems likely that the perpetrator was Gaston’s grandson, 16 years old & probably drunk at the time, Roger Perrin.

unnamed (1).jpg

Last Thursday myself, Spud, Victor Pope & ex-Tinky Disco bandmate Al Roberts all made our bleary-eyed ways to Edinburgh airport for a 9.45 AM flight. Me & Spud always get wound up by Al leaving his house in a slow-shabby fashion, so opted to get to the airport ourselves – I took a tram & he the shuttle bus. Vic & Al shared an Uber without any mess-ups, which surprised us & proved a good omen to our week together on the road. As we stepped onto the tarmac to board our plane, the Scottish chill was fully raging & I was very much looking forward to a respite from the seemingly endless Caledonian winter.

ob_0c1e19_les-noces-de-protis.jpg
Gyptis choosing Euxene

A handful of hours later we were in Marseille & checking into our Air B&B right beside the Old Harbour, or Vieux Port. This was the spot where in 600 BC a guy called Euxene arrives from Phocae (an ancient part of Turkey) just in time for the local king’s daughter’s ‘choosing ceremony.’ In short, among a group of gathered suitors, Euxene was the one given a goblet of wine by princess Gyptis, who would later change her name to Aristoxenus. Euxene & Aristoxenus, now that’s already got the hallmarks of a conchord, I thought to myself, in the same way I thought that Gaston Dominici has a Motzartean ring about it. Looking at the Gyptis story at that point, tho, it unfortunately seemed a bit weak to make a conchord out of…

84415204_10159215774313776_845121449273327616_n.jpg

Marseille with the lads was fun. Kicking back with a smart TV & cheap beer in the hypermodern flat or on the balcony overlooking the harbour, with the pointed cathedral rising on the central Marseille hill beyond. On the smart TV, we watched Netflix, played all our music videos, while Al could send to it our recent recordings – an album called the New Truth. I couldn’t help but notice the technological advancement of the species – the last time I was in Provence was 20 years ago & for fun me & my pal, Bryn, ended up making a chess board out of paper & stones. Here’s an extract from my journal of that time.


May 10th, 2000

img_20160322_084400272-e1540464316477.jpg

We woke up proper spangled, but a quick dip in the exquisitely cool pool proved enough of a respite from our frail noggins & we were able to pack & head out to Cannes. It was the first day of the festival & full of noisy Yanks, so we soon got out of dodge, striking inland on a bus to Grasse, a lovely town stacked high against the hillside. We had a couple of hours to kill so wandered around a bit & to our delight found it very swell, with lovely narrow streets & great prospects of the Cotes d’Azore in the distance.

After sending off our postcards we hopped on a bus north along La Route Napoleon. The view was spectacular as we climbed & wound thro’ the mountains, each one clad in trees giving a baize effect, & I could imagine Napoleon & his column following the same road. A rapid mist descended, however, followed soon after by heavy rain which showed no intention of letting up as we were unceremoniously dumped in the wee hamlet of Seranon. We dived into the only bar around for shelter & refreshment, obtaining a few funny looks off the funny looking locals.

img_20181028_122655834.jpg
In the days before group emails & blogs

Eventually we found out the bus north didn’t leave til the morning, so we were stuck. We didn’t fancy putting the tent up in the rain so opted for a hotel. A friendly couple drove us a half mile down the road to their mate’s hotel, which was closed. Luckily the mustached madame opened it up for us (a whole hotel to ourselves), but we were forced to share a double bed (with pants on obviously). As soon as we paid our 15 francs the sun came out & we heaved a table up to the roof, bought wine, cheese, bread & sausage & had a most pleasant supper among the mountains. It was cool, me musing & Bryn sketchin’ & it felt nice to be doing spot of real travelling, the only sound being the constant chuckle of crickets. Bryn very correctly brought up the point we were stuck in a one horse dive & had less than two days to get to Venice, but I re-assured him all would be reyt. We made a chess-board out of paper & stones & played to the setting of the sun, before all the wine & well-thought-out moves took their toll & sent us both a-slumbering.


IMG_20200131_134305.jpg
At a monument to Rimbaud, Marseille seafront

Fastforward to 2020, on our first full day in France – Brexit day as it so happened – we enjoyed a daytime riviera stroll, followed by a wicked night out at bohemian La Plaine – a very funky part of Marseille. Drinking & dancing & downing tequilas, we met an English busker called Charlie, & his Slovakian girlfriend. The gods had answered our pleas, & he actually had 3 guitars. ‘Don’t worry, we won’t steal them – it’ll be too expensive to check them into our flights back,’ put him off from coming round for a jam, but he agreed to meet us the next day for a wee busk.

IMG_20200201_180739.jpg
83561599_10159215776428776_1291774017715306496_n.jpg
84292382_10159221106468776_2314000337519771648_n.jpg

It was more than a joy the following afternoon to find ourselves all jamming together by Marseille harbour to the infinite delight of the locals. Our immediate audience consisting of an annoying kid who kept banging the guitars, a Czech street lassie & a Parisenne rock-chick who finds Marseille a cheaper place to live. Before then, I’d taken a solo morning mission up to Allauch, a hilltop village right on the edge of the Marseille conurbation. It was at the old castle, even higher still, that I filmed the following Pendragon Poetry post, talking all about Conchordia.

IMG_20200201_113444.jpg
Allauch
IMG_20200201_130246.jpg

I was up in the hills as I’d read that a possible Gyptis object had been found in a hillside cave nearby. The curator of the slick local museum begged to differ, but I said I’m a poet & I didn’t want the truth to get in the way of a good story. Yes, a conchord was being born & on the way back to the appartment I googled a few Greek myths & found one, which I felt I could use – Alcyone and Ceyx. Basically, they offended the gods by calling themselves Hera & Zeus, & ended up being drowned & then turned into birds. A little creative furnace-burning later & I’d transmorped the myth into Euxene & Aristoxenus being turned into the the islands of Pomègues and Ratonneau which lie off the mouth of Marseille harbour. Like the Phaecean ship which carried Odysseus to Ithica being turned to stone.

900_Ceyx and Alcyone
Alcyone & Ceyx
unnamed (2)
Pomègues and Ratonneau

Compositionwise I only managed a few speeches from VIRIATHUS in Marseille – the second Senate scene – in the early morning before the boys woke up, mainly at a cafe by the harbour. I usually compose on my morning East Lothian walks with Daisy, accompanied otherwise only by nature and the essential headspace needed to really zone out. Not so easy in a busy city as ever. There was no way I was going to achieve my goal of finishing Viriathus on this trip & then starting ‘The Flight of the White Eagles, ‘ – my conchord about the retreat from Moscow – the notes for which I worked intensively on before I set off. Still, they are all in the bank & Viriathus should be finished within days. I’ll be recreating the antics & dashing chit-chat of Seargant Bourgogne soon enough!

Capture

We left Marseille the next day, the sunshine heating up, arriving by train at the Durance valley & the station which serves La Brilliane & Oraison. The River Durance patches its way between them on a hugely wide stony river bed, with hills framing the scene on either side, & the snow-capped Alps closing the vista far to the north at Digne. Public transport round these parts is pretty neglible, & with it being Sunday afternoon no shops were open. Of that first of the two matters, we soon hit paydirt. After walking over the bridge to Oraison, beyond the frustratingly closed intermarche, we came to a carpark where I asked a lovely fella could he take us to Dabisse, & he agreed gladly.

IMG_20200202_180849.jpgDabisse is a wee village with a bar & a bus stop kinda thing. The bar was well busy, tho, its car park full of temporary pebbledash for a meeting of the region’s petanque teams. It was a really serendiptous, masonic, monastic moment listening to the clink-clinks & murmours of the play. Getting a carry-out together we went back to our villa & gorged on the food previous Air B&B-ers had left behind – a severe stroke of luck for a hungry bunch on a Sunday.


83513840_10159223707613776_6212182684811132928_o.jpg

Ah, the good old days! Roll on a nigh decade & I found myself composing Viriathus, drinking wine by the pool of a plush villa in Provence. We had a look at the pool, but soon covered it up again – early February means a bit of algae & no need for pool-use, I guess.

IMG_20200203_143535.jpg

The fridge was now full. We’d hitched a lift to Oraison in the morning off the lovely John Christmas (real name Jean-Noel), stocked up at the supermarket, then caught a taxi back to Dabisse for the day. And what a day, far from the Scottish chill and ended by a walk with Al for a sunset view over the Durance valley.

Some of those 21 degree sun-soaked, Senate-based Viriathus lines composed by the pool read like this ;

84407100_499709420733453_7975519110622609408_n

Galba
Senators of our majestic city
& many other regions in its stride,
This treaty is, in the highest degree,
Dishonorable to all we stand for,
Staining Servilianus’ career,
Viriathus is a craved barbaric,
Beheading, disembowelling at will,
A bandit on an unsubsistive soil –
To him a border is a line to cross
To empty beaten innocents of blood
& topple pillars, pillaging obscene.

Lupius
Obscene? Objection! You paint him monster,
Humanity, his high ascendency,
Distributes unifying spiritus
That never in the passage of this war,
In armies of tribal variety,
Was ever spill’d sedition, all obey’d,
All fearless in the presence of danger –
As statesman he was neither humble-knee’d
Nor overbearing in leagues & treaties,
Faithful, exact, aequis, veritable,
Vir Duxque Magnus, ancient ideals
Penetrated atoms of existence,
& as the adsertur of Hispania
Let us assert our honour to his will
Make good his claims to the fame of the world,
Too many lost already in that place
We owe him our respect

Galba
We owe him death
The retributive slew for youth hard lost.

IMG_20200203_172523.jpg
IMG_20200203_173506.jpg

So to yesterday – the ultimate object of this mission & a trip to La Grand Terre, the farmhouse of the Dominicis. It began in fine fashion with me & Spud arguing about how to get to Lurs – it was a case of his gammy leg versus my abundant energy & in the end the lads got a taxi & I walked the muddy Durance-side fields down to the bridge & back up the other side. I got to Lurs scrambling up its rocky slopes & arrived at its medieval core to see the lads waiting at the entrance. Once reunited we hit the old goat tracks down to the road, & using a little satnav orienteering came out at the very spot where the Drummonds were murdered. The poignant teddy bear shrine is testament to the locals’ indignation at the death of a child.

IMG_20200204_115538.jpg
IMG_20200204_115915.jpg
IMG_20200204_140554.jpg
IMG_20200204_140810.jpg
Looking back from Lurs Terrace on the way I had walked – Dabisse is the village middle left & I walked by the Durance to the right of the photo
IMG_20200204_140818.jpg
Oraison is the town in the middle distance – I crossed the bridge there & walked to this point
IMG_20200204_140856
IMG_20200204_140919.jpg
IMG_20200204_142531.jpg
IMG_20200204_143819.jpg
received_467187994170755.jpeg
Approaching La Grand Terre

After La Grand Terre, I’d got it in my head that we could ford the Durance – Dabisse was more or less facing us on the other bank. The lads humoured me & watched me make tentative efforts on a scouting mission in the shallower bits – but the plan was soon aborted & we caught a taxi back. That night I ruminated in a Pendragon fashion on the Drummond murders & got a pretty plausible idea of what went on that night – which I’ll use in my composition.

IMG_20200205_143046.jpg

The next day we chilled in the sun til 2PM, caught a taxi to the station, then a train to Saint Antione, conducted a wee walk to our Air B&B off La Pennes Mirabeau, then caught the Rangers-Hibs game over beers. At 6AM we hired a lift off our landlord to the airport & we were finally in Edinburgh by 9.30 AM. On the flight I pretty much worked out the structure of the Dominic conchord – 4 acts with a cliffhanger ending each one – & began sketching it out on the inside cover of an Agatha Christie book I was reading on the holiday- A Pocketful of Rye. Just like Agatha I was going backwards from the ending, & there’s a chance I could have a wee Mousetrap on my hands if I get mi ‘ead down. With bangin’ tunes & Shakespearean blank verse, of course!

IMG_20200206_093553.jpg


Composing Conchordia: Vaulting The Lockdown (May 2020)

napoleon-russia

After the completion of the Leithology quintology – which will soon be on sale on all platforms – & the composition of Viriathus & Malmaison, I felt THE FLIGHT OF THE WHITE EAGLES was going to be a real statement-maker. If I really do wanna emulate Shakespeare, I need definitive works with meaty bodies – a bit like Hamlet innit – & so turned to Napoleon’s infamous retreat from Moscow as the first of my major conchords. There’s a hell of a lot of drama obviously, & when it comes to stagecraft the visual deterioration of the soldiers will be a wonderful story to tell.

IMG_20200428_141341

With five acts of seven or so scenes each, all bubbling with blank verse & containing both original songs & songs drawn from the period itself, WHITE EAGLES definitely marks a placement of my muse on a Parnassian plateaux of sorts. No looking back now – ten down, 27 to go!

cover
LEITHOLOGY – Available in book form soon

I began researching WHITE EAGLES last year after reading the fabulous ‘Memoirs of Sergeant Bourgogne.’ From this first catalyst – I was very verteux at the time – I began to research other memoirs up in the National Library of Scotland, such as those of Caulaincourt, & set to work on the composition period not long after my return from Provence sometime in mid-February. Then the Lock Down happened. I don’t need to rattle on about it, everyone’s experiencing it. I’m lucky tho’ – I walk dogs with my girlfriend which meant I could to & fro between my places in Edinburgh & East Lothian for ‘work that cannot be done from home‘ – the dog numbers had drastically plumetted, but there was enough to make it valid & of course meant I could compose pretty much anyway I liked – from the Lammermuirs to Leith Links. Here’s a Walking East Lothian post I created during the Lock Down.

Musically, WHITE EAGLES has been something of an educational dream, help’d along by my house-mate’s keyboard playing. By February I had a couple of tunes, but then began to write more & add local colour so to speak, translating from the French lyric into the English. Of my new songs THE BALLAD OF BORODINO is really beautiful I think, & THE GREAT NAPOLEON really fun – the Herod moment – my house mate incorporating the Tetrislike theme tune into via some techno rave from the 90s via Hicksy & Sharky. He also fell in love with Plaisir D’Amour & Compere Guillere.

The full list of songs is below, with astersks denoting my own compositions)

The Sable Raven – English version
Marlbrough is Going To war – English version
Plasir D’amour
Parisienne Skies (*)
On Va Leur Percer Le Franc
The Blood of Borodino (*)
Pomme de Terres (*)
Compere Guillere – French Version
Song of the Loricated Legion (*)
My Handsome Husband (*)
Soarin’ Home (*)
Chant du Depart
Crossing the Bridge (*)
The Great Napoleon (*)
Compere Guillere – English version (*)
Au Clair de la Lune
Le Depart Du Bologne
The March from Moscow (*)

Theatrically, there are a lot of parts – three main bodies of 8-10 characters; Napoleon & his entourage, Bourgogne’s company & the Russian partisans. There’s also another 20 or so walk-in parts, plus the crossing of the Berezhina bridge to depict – but whenever WHITE EAGLES does get performed everyone’s gonna JUST love it!

IMG_20200521_153554

Artistically, WHITE EAGLES is the bag daddy to Malmaison, but together they form a very good account of Napoleon’s life. Like I said at the start, it also represents the foot-scrambling heave onto the plateaux from where the rest of my conchords will be composed.

483059_1-tt-width-637-height-453-crop-1-bgcolor-ffffff-lazyload-0

The first of this new bunch is GODS OF THE RING & I’m extremely excited about it. The principle subject is the four fights between Ali, Foreman & Frazier, & all the dramas before, during, after & between the fights. The names of these epic combats have gone down in history – THE FIGHT OF THE CENTURY, THE SUNSHINE SHOWDOWN, THE RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE & THE THRILLA IN MANILLA. Like White Eagles I’ve already got two tunes in the bank, a theme tune & the sublime, best song I’ve written in ages, BLACK POWER. I’ve been compiling the notes in the past few days, the bulk of which were studied for in the National Library just before the Lockdown.  I’m gonna print out the first notes today & get composing soon after.

00192AEA00000258-0-image-a-20_1465019294051

With White Eagles taking just over three months, & June the 1st on the horizon, I’ve got a feeling that every new conchord is gonna take a season – so Gods of the Ring is the conchord of the summer of 2020 – the weird summer, the one where the theatres were closed. For me, I think I’ll be spending some of it hopefully in Greece, where the next of these windows into my workings will be composed.


THE SIEGE OF GOZO: Scenes 1-6

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

Gozitans

Galaziano De Sesse – Governor of Gozo
Nicolli Casteletti – Bishop of Gozo
Don Lorenzo Apap – Parish Priest
Bartolomeo Bonavia – Augustine Friar
Paulo di Nas – Juror
Fredericus Mongebino
Ioanna Brunetto
Andreotto Brancato
Franciscus Frantino
Leonardus Bongibino
Angela Salibe
Barnardo D’Opua
Betta D’Opua
Sonia & Peruna D’Opua – Daughters

Peter Towneley – An English Knight

The Ottomans

Sultan Suleiman
The Grand Vizier
Sinan Pasha
Dragut
Salah Rais

The Knights of St John

Grandmaster D’Homedes
Francesco Lanfreducci
Jean Parisot de Valette
Claude de la Sengle



Scene 1: Qala

Fredericus approaches the window of his betrothed

Fredericus
Darling, dear darling, step outside
Your husband to be is there
To sing of your youthful beauty
Your qualities good & fair

I’d be a bird, fly to your bed
Watching curls & tresses comb
& with my wings would snuff the light
Give you kisses then fly home

Ioanna steps onto the balcony

Ioanna
Fredericus Mongebino!
Why come to my door tonight?

Fredericus
When moon is at its fullest beam
Beauty brightest in its light

Your face is like the fairest rose
Your fragrancies compel me
Were you stood in a flowerpot
Each morning I would smell thee

Ioanna
Tell me am I the only one
Or do you have maidens more
For I saw, passing through the street,
A woman stood at your door.

Fredericus
Be easy, my love, be easy,
People’s eyes see things untrue;
For noble Fredericus swears
She was selling rabbit stew

Tis you who fix an anchor fast
Inside my heart’s quick beating
Go get a knife, open it up
& see my love repeating

You are the only one for me
To fondle with embraces
Turn kisses into passageways
Plant flowers in love’s places

Ioanna
You are so lovely my true love
Who I long to marry so
But you must take me to the feasts
About the isle of Gozo

& we shall fill the carnivals
With dances, songs & laughter
When love shall bless our union
For now & everafter

Fredericus & Ioanna
For now & everafter, love,
Daily let our vows renew
Made sacred with our wedded kiss
I shall end my days with you


Scene 2: Topkapı Palace, Istanbul

Sultan Suleiman is holding court

Grand Vizier
Welcome, Pasha, to the sacred court
Of our majestic ruler, Suleiman
Whom loyal made Belgrade to the Sultan
Whom over Safavid successful fought
Who broke the Muhac hordes of Hungary
Who over swathes of Africa now reigns
Being our noblest lawgiver, ingrains
Our lives with perfect judgement, he shall see
Whatever you shall show him, & shall hear
Whate’er you wish to say, please speak it clear.

Sinan Pasha
Your majesty ! the Ottoman astounds
The world, as is the blessing of Allah,
But sire, whyso our European bounds
Stagnating in the swamps of Vienna
We must ascend a secondary front
Against the Holy League of Christendom
The Hospitalers pull a putrid stunt
Poisoning lips as we were kissing them
With spake words faking peace on leaving Rhodes
So much for Christus worship & its codes

Suleiman
Well spoken, Pasha, thy counsel’s reason
Enough to tilt the balance of my thoughts
Woe to the infernal Knights of Saint John
Who Malta turn’d a perfidious hive
Of galley hornets sallying with stings
Against the ships of golden Africa
Yes, it is settl’d, they must feel the force
Of Sultan Suleiman – Sinan Pasha
An expedition take in thy command
Drive vermin, drowning, from those lonely rocks

Sinan Pasha
You honour me, your majesty, & I
Accept with all the veins which flood my heart
With blood I hold for Allah, & for thee,
But Sultan, grant me one small wish, I plead,
Two Buccaneering warriors I’ll need;
Give me Dragut, the Drawn Sword of Islam,
An admiral at sea, a prince on land,
Give me Salah who fought Formentera
Whom all the ships of Spain could not withstand
Give me those men & triumph, sire, we must

Suleiman
Yes, of course, I shall summon both these men
To puff up your war party, but Pasha,
Remember well to please me when you weigh
Eventualities to decisions
When battle’s won I do not wish to hear
The names of those Grandmasters anymore
Nor bloody reports of losses at sea
Let palmleaf spikes from bare feet be removed
Let foolish flies be wash’d from blinking eyes –
To Arms ! To War! To Sea! To Victory !


Scene 3: Qala

After the wedding of Fredericus & Ioanna, the party emerge from the Sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception, under a Baldakkin, preceeded by an Id-Dudi band. Their singer is a daqqaq call’d Franciscus Frantino.

Franciscus
The bride & groom are married now
Wide opens the chapel door
Fine food & wine awaits us all
At the Feast of Evermore

Because she loves him he loves her
Then she his love returneth
All Gozo gossips of their love
Eternally that burneth

Her mother made her marry young
& is weeping over there
Since she was born she’d always known
She would spend her life elsewhere

But what a man she’s marrying
As clear as I play guitar
The young girls of this neighbourhood
Sing of how lucky you are

As the wedding party carry on to the square – Franciscus breaks ranks to court Angela Salibe

Angela
My beloved has a guitar
It bears his name & surname
They told me that he was a rake
But behaves he without blame

Franciscus
Your lovely tresses, Angela,
Toss’d streaming over shoulders
Wheree’er you travel in this world
I’ll follow them like soldiers

Angela
My beloved is a bandsman
What a fine figure has he
Whene’er he plays he smiles my way
He’s a bad habit, simply

Franciscus
My heart has entered in your heart
Like a bean into its shell
No new or old sweethearts I’ll seek
For you, darling, I’ll foretell

Angela
My sweetheart sings & plays guitar
How I love to watch his hands
& kiss those lips that ghana sing
When the look of love commands

Franciscus
You beauty travel’d far & wide
I could not believe it true
Then I came to Qala & saw
Now I’m mad in love with you

Angela
And I would fall into your arms
But you hold your instrument
Pray put it down & use those lips
Like a lover’s mouth is meant

Franciscus & Angela embrace


Scene 4: Qala, the central piazza

The wedding party arrive in the main square – a pole has been erected about which the Kumitiva is danced – at the end of the dance Franciscus & Angela burst into the festivities

Franciscus
Stop ! stop your dancing, come & see
A hundred warships flying
The Crescent banner, man your posts
Our coast needs fortifying


Scene 5 : Fort Saint Angelo, Birgu

Grandmaster D’Homedes is in discussion with Francesco Lanfreducci & Jean Parisot de Valette

Lanfreducci
Let us praise the Lord for this salvation
Grave dangers pass, Grandmaster D’Homedes
At least for us in bastion Birgu
Tho’ Turks ten thousand mass’d under bulwarks
Not a singular infidel dared test
The defences of Fort Saint Angelo
But now it seems they march on Mdina
Leaving a guarded fleet at Marsamxett
Such evil time has drawn an ugly veil
Of fear & dark aboding, devil-forged.

Grandmaster D’Homedes
More anguish must ensue, I sense, & soon
The dreadful happenstances of these days
Have always blown a promise to endure
Hindsight is only useful to the seers
We holy Knights were vastly unprepared
To blunt the Crescent scimitar fierce drawn
Against the Holy League of Christendom
With Salan Pasha, Salah & Dragut
Flung like a Cerebus from Inferno
De Valette, you have met the latter, yes?

De Valette
Dragut is the spawn of Barbarosa
In temprament, tenacity & guile
Who deady vendetta has sworn on us
For slaying his brother upon Gozo
cSome sev’ral years ago, he never shirks
From promises like these, full well I know
For I was kept a slave on his galley
When Rahman Kust Aly defeated me
In battle on the seas, a peaceless year
Until the Order barter’d my release

Enter Claude de la Sengle

Claude de la Sengle
Grandmaster, there is word from Mdina
Commander Villeganion muster’d
All able-bodied peasants from the farms
& in their souls assembl’d Christ invoked
To stage a stout defence of rampart walls
With them forty knights & arquebusers
Meanwhile the heathen pillage villages
Burning & raping, devouring all –
The shadow of the Crescent falls on Malta
& Gozo too, their galleys scout its shores.

Grandmaster D’Homodes
We can give to Gozo nothing, alas,
But they possess a fine citadella
That well-equipp’d a long siege should defy
Until the hours help comes from Sicily
But we shold not stand idle, as befits
The warriors of Christ, let us sally
Against their galleys in a night attack
Come brothers all, come & ardently pray
For heavenly success in endeavors
& for Mdina – ‘Ave Marias.’

The Knights pray in Latin


Scene 6 : Marsamxett Harbour

A Parata is performed. The two sides are comprised of Turkish sailors & the Knights of St John. At the end of the battle several galley slaves escape including Andreotto Brancato.

(SOG): Scenes 7-12

Nicolli Casteletti
Being aware of the news from Malta
The sensation of our security
Replaced has been by one of urgent fear
But as Arch-Priest thy calmness I beseech
For as the hungry wolves seize straggle-lambs
A flock is always stronger together
In times of thorns & danger strength is all
When fortified by Jesus in Heaven
Better, standing firm, one corporeal
Member, bonded by singular spirit.

(SOG): Scenes 13-18

SCENE 13: The Turkish Camp

Sinan Pasha, Dragut & Salah Rais are watching Bartolomeo Bonavia being lowered in a basket form the Citadella.

Salah Rais
Who could fathom this comical moment
As in a basket conical descends
A man who represents their able minds
But seems as frighten’d a little mouse
Under the harvest blade, but we shall hear
His offers of surrender, as is due
Defenders of a siege in these rich days –
We are not savages, but men of God
That is of course our God, for theirs is false
Despite his cross, his crucifix, his hymns

Dragut
I recognize that man, his face has sear’d
Fierce imprints on my mind, he stood among
Those who saw me plead my brother’s body
Beslain by Giovanni Ximones
& gunfire underneath those tragic stones
After his body appropriated
I begg’d it back, but they laugh’d in my face
Stake-burnt upon the bastion behind
But I swore on the day I left Gozo
Such dastard derring shall their downfall bring

Enter Bartolomeo Bonavia

Bartolomeo Bonavia
Commanders of the Ottoman Enpire
I, Bartolomeo Bonavia
Of the Augustine Order on Gozo
Emissarize on our Noble’s behalf
Educated men, well-bred for wisdom,
& masters in the world of wealth acrued
Who state it might be better if they stay’d
Two hundred of them, organise ransoms
For all the others Gozitans enslaved

Sinan Pasha
You ask a lot considering your plight
The breach I’d say a day or two away
& not a whimper of help from your Knights
But there is something in the offer made
Alas, two hundred? too many… forty
Could serve the transactions so suggested
If this is found acceptable, the gates
Shall opened be with only one delay
That is the emptying of treasure vaults
Of gold & grain, of silver & of salt

Bartolomeo Bonavia
Your graciousness our consolation, sir
& on your kindness we can but concur
& of your temper none could criticise
Await the white flag rising on the skies
This is the signal that the citadel
Has opened its great gates, & has yielded
Before the forces of your awesome fleet
& forty nobles shall be there to meet
Yourselves on your victorious entrance
With all their treasures piled in riches there


Scene 14: The Citadella

Fredericus & Ioanna are alone on the battlements

Fredericus
O ! what a beautiful moonrise
For loved ones in the evening
My heart so glad I married thee
& to my wear my husband’s ring

Your eyes are luke ruby jewels
In silvery caskets lain
As sweet as raisins taste your lips
& your tongue like sugar cane

Ioanna
O ! what a beautiful evening
Calm ocean’s hugging the shore
Please never part from me either
For I love you even more

Fredericus
Your face is like a rose in bloom
Your lips like a juicy peach
Each night I sleep thinking of you
When I wake, for you I reach

Fredericus & Ioanna
Like twinking stars & winking moon
Paint the canvas of the night
O ! what a beautiful evening
When spirits as one unite

Enter Bongibino

Leonardus Bongibino
Ioanna, Fredericus, listen, please,
Our elders flap about like flightless birds
& some of us, about three hundred strong,
Unwilling to capitulate our lives,
Shall risk the ropes, the Citadel this side
Sees not one Turkish tent, Fredericus, help,
Secure the ropes, in fifteen forty-eight
I left the Hell on Earth that is a slave
Under the Ottomans – never again!

Enter Andreotto

Andreotto
Ioanna, Fredericus, my old friends
Let us go together into the night
& find a place to hide as we did once
When we were children, in the rubble walls
Scampering paths thro’ crevices & shrubs
There’ll be bushes to hide in, there’ll be shacks
Ten thousand Turks could never search them all
The most important moment of our lives
Has come; to stay is folly, to go life

Fredericus
But what is life, & moreso what’s the source
But family, closest of them the pair
Of lovemates your parental spirit join’d,
The day our human destinies met God,
& so I must remain beside the hearth
While they yet live there – they protected me
When I was but a stripling yelp of bones
& so I shall protect them both in turn
Such is the way of life, those who bore us
We shall bare back when infirm or afear’d

Ioanna
If Fredericus stays, than so stay I
A wife’s place is beside her husband fix’d
Cemented by the marital conjoin
For where such love is strong, no storm, no strain,
No spite nor spike could ever seperate
My love for Fredericus shines the same
& I intend to stay here come what may
To put myself first is most ignoble
For I am a true Gozitan woman
But wish you well, goodbye, old friend, farewell

Andreotto
Old friend ! Old friend ! we were much more than that
As well you know, the love we shar’d did seem
Imperil’d only by Apocalypse
But as I was born Gozitan also
We must respect all wishes lady-wrought
Tho’ fill’d with calamaties & sorrow
As if Death had come to haul me away –
Beloved, I am about to leave you
May God preserve you, but grant me one wish
Let me look upon your face… it… is… so…

Exit Barnardo via the rope over the battlement

Ioanna & Fredericus
Like twinking stars & winking moon
Paint the canvas of the night
O ! what a beautiful evening
Two spirits as one unite


Scene 15: The Citadella

De Sesse & Nicoletti are waiting with the nobles of Gozo / the gates to the citadella are opend / enter Sinan Pasha. Dragut & Salah Rais with guards

Galaziano
Sinan Pasha, Salah Rais, Dragut
On the day of this solemn surrender
Our ancient fortress to your forces falls
With all these heap’d up jewelries & chests
Fill’d with silver scudi & talents
& platters etch’d with Viking runerie,
I am Galaziano de Sesse
The Governor, with forty hope to go
With honour for to quantify our lands
& raise whatever ransoms you require

Sinan Pasha
I never stipulated who shall stay
Not you, or these, no, he’s not even grey
I meant forty elders most decrepit
Old men doddering who can barely perch
Up in bed, it is these who shall remain
The dribbling dregs of your island race
Their mourning time shall nature fizzle short
When all Gozitans shall be forgotten
Else for the shadow-walkers on the hills
Who’ll wail your names in hours of savage storms

Castelletti
What is this? We are Gozo’s noblest lords
Men of most ancient names & families
& each one of us at one time has been rank’d
Hakem & Juror, why let this happen?
This wealth you see a fraction we could get
If we were free… if worship Mahomet
& Holy Allah, thro’ our conversion
Is what you want, I will do it gladly
What are you doing, unhand me at once!!
Tis folly to enact so foul a deed

Salah Rais
Folly! it was but folly to resist
Chain him, & everyone, down to the ships
Make them carry all these treasures with them
Annhialate this island of its host
If it burns set alight, smash the churches
Trash the palaces, rage like a torrent
Devastates woodland thro’ wild floodwaters
Deplete the people of all possessions
Set every annal’d document ablaze
Of those destin’d to lie in nameless graves

Sinan Pasha
Brother Bonavia, as custom deigns
To those brave enough to negotiate
With armies victorious, your fair fate
Is to remain at perfect liberty
To remember in the name of Allah,
To the prophet Muhammad propitious,
Your conquerors remain’d magnaminous –
Now hoist the Crescent from teh highest point
So any ship that sails about these shores
Can celebrate our victory with song!


Scene 16: The House of Barnardo D’Opua

Enter Barnardo, wounded. His wife, Betta, & their two teenage daughters are in fear.

Betta
Darling, darling, you bleed, your wounds
Let me dress them, Peruna
A pan of water boil at once
Sonia prepare the dressing

Barnardo
There is no time, the Turks are here
& mean to turn enslaver
& you, my girls, I must protect
From deed that must not waiver

I will not see my darling ones
Before me violated
By such impious infidels
The heathen ever-hated

Your face a fate for worse than death
Of rapes in lightless prison
Far better now to end your lives
Slain by a painless poison

Come here my wife, my daughters too
Come bite a sprig of hemlock
You’ll meet again at Heaven’s gates
Where the holy angels flock

& I will join you soon enough
But while blood thro’ me will flow
I’ll kill an Ottoman or two
For Christendom & Gozo

Barnardo gives his family a sprig of hemlock each – which they take in solemn silence

Barnardo
Goodbye my darling princesses
Goodbye my beautiful wife
Farewell to happinessess sweet
Which enrich a married life

As his family lies dying Barnardo loads an iron crossbow and an arquebus / the Turks arrive at the door – Barnardo fires his weapons, slaying two – more enemy rush in & in the fighting Barnardo is killed


Scene 17: The Garigue of Gozo

The Gozitans are in chains, carrying treasures to the shore

Fredericus
Over garigue I go, Gozo
I love you so, with a wrench
Of breaking heart I must depart
By the tall cliffs of Ta Cenc

Farewell ye perfume-heavy trees
Goodbye Sicilian shrew
To all you rock roses abloom
Saddest farewells bidden too

Farewell to ruby tiger moths
To swallowtails & lizards
No more shall Gozo’s sorceries
Enchant us like wild wizards

To my olive-leaf germander,
My orchids, my narcissi
My spiderfly, my Maltese spurge
You are gorgeous, all, goodbye

& I shall miss you St John’s Bread
Asparagus, Bear’s Breeches
I’ll miss the Ceifa on these cliffs
The Petrels by the beaches

Goodbye, farewell, my darling Isle
Goodbye dear, darling Gozo
When shall I see your face again
Only God above does know


Scene 18: Mgarr Ix-Xini

Rowing boats are ferrying the Gozitans to the Turkish galleys at the ras in-Newwiela promontory.

Sinan Pasha
Children of Gozo, you are faceless now
This is the place of your handing over
In this increasing pile leave your riches
It is time to forget about your lives
Your families, your animals, your fields
This inlet puncture’d by Titan’s dagger
The place you’ll ever leave your past behind
You are to spend indefinite futures
In service to our Sultan, Sulamein,
Seraglios & galley-slaves you’ll go

Dragut
There is a satisfaction in this scene
My brother was a good man to his core
Who died in heat of battle with honour
But did this cursed people recognize
The cool integrities of martial death
The ancient rights of noble burials
Awarded to a warrior in arms?
No ! this they did not do,& for that day
All here shall suffer the retribution
I swore that day upon the Rock Of Vows

Salah Rais
Consider this the gateway to empire
& we torchbearers of resplendent beams
Think not this is your catastrophic fall
But more your soul salvation, you might see
Tripoli, Callipolis, Sofia,
Algiers, Odessa, Damietta,
Atranto, Sarajevo, Trebizond,
Pristina, Damascus, Ioaninna,
Jerusalem & Azov, & of course
For the luckiest, holiest Mecca

Franciscus Frantino
Goodbye my lovely island, til the day
I’ll sit again high over Ramla Bay
& on my jangling tanbur there compose
A tender ghana slender as a rose
Before it blooms, then to fair Angela
I’ll tie our sighing heartbeats together
By letting petals open on the notes
I’ll sing upon the pleasant breeze that floats
In from the seas, & hear her song reply
Of love bonded forever, she & I

Sinan Pasha
& so the Siege of Gozo is ending
We to our lands & families return
But unfinish’d business is portending
Still in our Sultan vengeant spirits burn
Tho’ Gozo has been render’d desolate
Depopulated, made a burning waste,
For to honour the brother of Dragut,
The isle of Malta’s as yet undefaced
Unwither’d yon that slither of water
When back we come it shall sink in slaughter…