De Profundis – East Neuk Festival 2017

This large-scale brass band production piece was created by John Wallace and Anthony George, based upon an original idea by Svend McEwan-Brown. It was developed in sessions with members of the Tullis Russell Mills Band, and commissioned and premiered at East Neuk Festival 2017 at The Bowhouse, St Monans, on 1st July 2017.

The essence of De Profundis is that it remembers and celebrates the lives and music of miners, enhanced by poetic narration, recorded birdsong, innovative ensemble and massed contributions from players installed in an unusual layout which embraced the sizeable venue.

De Profundis lasts for three-quarters of an hour.   It’s set in a level of darkness (whilst meeting health and safety requirements), with only atmospheric spots and coloured tints to build the ‘staging’.  The audience is immersed among the players, spread around the performance setting in ensemble clusters.  Audience members are encouraged to promenade around the venue to experience the changing sounds and atmosphere as the piece progresses and to perceive how the players’ contributions from different areas of the space affect their senses and the delivery of the overall performance.

All the music is drawn from two settings of the psalm ‘Out of the Deep” (De Profundis) and John Wallace created his ‘note mine’ from this inspiration.  Using aleatory elements and improvisation, John’s writing offers musicians a stimulating and inspiring experience beyond the normal.

Promoted by the East Neuk Festival, the project was supported by Creative Scotland, Fife Council, Toby and Kate Anstruther, Shields and Carol Henderson, Donald and Louise MacDonald.

Here is a short summary video, filmed by a promenading audience member, which offers a flavour of the epic proportions of this innovative production:


Feedback from all the participants and audience for the world premiere of De Profundis at the 2017 East Neuk Festival has been enthusiastic. Here are just some of the comments:

De Profundis brought a whole new dimension to brass music for me.  To be able to walk amongst the playing groups and see them close up made the performance really intimate.  It will be an evening I will never forget!

Audience Member

What an experience this project has been!  When it all came together with the poetry, birdsong, lighting and even the haze effects, the piece made so much more sense than when we were rehearsing the music alone.  I’ve never improvised as part of a performance before, so it was brilliant to have the opportunity to learn how to approach it and to make sure what I did was in keeping with the performance.  It’s so good to know I’ve contributed personally to the piece, and made it unique in my own way.


What an incredible achievement!  I never realised brass bands could do this sort of thing, it’s really changed my attitude towards what I thought they were all about!  It was fantastic to feel part of the performance too – the combination of effects which the lighting and scenery made really added to the whole impact.  Fantastic!

Audience Member

I loved it!  All sorts of unexpected sounds and musical motifs coming from different corners of the room, and the beautiful poetry was so effective in building up the atmosphere.  What a great tribute to the mining communities across the world – it was such a unique experience it will stay in my fond memories for years to come!

Audience Member

What a creative challenge this must have been to present.  Such innovative ideas and wonderful inspiration for the undertones of the music and the selection of the poetry.  The technical team were amazing with the way in which they transformed the space with selective lighting and colours.  It wasn’t a concert in the normal sense of the word, but it was a truly impressive performance.  It’s given me the opportunity to experience a whole combination of art forms I probably would never have had the chance to hear or see.  Well done to everyone involved – stunning!

Audience Member


Please contact us for a chat if you would like to find out more about presenting your own production of De Profundis.

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