A Musical/Cantata by Peter Rose & Anne Conlon
The lighthearted story of Augustine’s mission to bring Christianity to England. How will the monks cope with the English weather? What will Queen Bertha make of forty Italian men dressed in very strange clothes? Will her husband, tree-worshipping King Ethelbert, allow them to stay?
The story begins in AD 583 in a market place in Rome where Gregory – soon to be Pope – was horrified to see a group of English slaves for sale. He took pity on them, freed them and converted them to Christianity. A few years later, when he was Pope, he asked the monk Augustine to make a missionary journey to England.
Augustine, with some reservations, agreed to Gregory’s request and soon set off with forty eager volunteer helpers. Their journey was so long and difficult Augustine’s followers, worried about their likely reception in England, gradually became disheartened and afraid and wanted to return to Rome. Gregory, however, urged them to carry on.
In the Spring of 597 they arrived at the coast of Kent and landed on Thanet Isle. There they waited, hoping that Ethelbert, the King of Kent, would allow them to continue. To their surprise, Ethelbert and his wife, Bertha, came to meet them and listened intently to every word Augustine had to say.
Whilst not prepared to commit himself to the new faith, Ethelbert did let them stay, giving them a home and allowing them to preach. In just a few months, the monks made so many converts that on Christmas day 597, ten thousand people, including the King, were baptised. The monks went on to establish a cathedral and a monastery in Canterbury and by the time Augustine died, Christianity was firmly established in England.
We know about this great conversion because of the writings of The Venerable Bede (673-735). He spent his life reading, studying, praying and writing in the Monastery of St Paul in Jarrow, Northumberland. He knew the details extremely well and is just the right person to tell us ‘this wonderful story of friendship and fear, courage and glory’.
The Conversion Job is a humorous re-telling of Bede’s story and revolves around the following main characters:
Speaking Only: The Venerable Bede (Narrator)
Acting/Singing: Gregory, Augustine, The Monks
Acting Only: Ethelbert, The King of Kent and Bertha, The Queen of Kent
The chorus can, if necessary, adopt a variety of roles, including the Market People, the Slave Sellers and their Slaves, the Sailors, the People of Kent and the Courtiers.
PERFORMING THE WORK
The première of The Conversion Job involved over 300 children and the original school week-long production proved so popular that it was restaged later to an audience of 2000 in one of England’s largest concert halls! Much of the dramatic action was mimed whilst the school’s large choir (in Greek Chorus style) performed the songs.
Other performances, presented in a variety of creative ways, have since been given by much smaller groups with equal success. Feel free to adapt the work to suit the dramatic, musical and numerical resources of your performers. All vocal harmony parts (SS/SA) are optional and in some of the songs, verses may be omitted at the director’s discretion.
Whatever way you decide to present the The Conversion Job, Peter and Anne hope that you and your cast have as much fun performing it as they themselves have had in writing it!
1) Vocal Score Cat.No. RCM 126
The full 68 page sheet music book for Voices and Piano (including narratives).
2) Piano Backing Track CD Cat.No. RCM2CD
Piano backing tracks for rehearsal/performance. Includes each song and The Canterbury March.
3) Piano Backing Tracks mp3 Download Cat. No. RCM89MD
Piano backing tracks for rehearsal/performance in mp3 format and downloaded in a Zip File. Includes each song and
The Canterbury March.
4) Soloist/Chorus Score Download Cat. No. RCM2060PD
A PDF file and licence for you to print as many copies as necessary for your singers.
a) The Libretto
b) The Song Lyrics
c) The Song Lyrics optimised for smart board presentation
d) The Narratives.
e) Programme Notes and Background Information Pack