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Performances of Benjamin Till's 'Nene'

From 2017 to 2018 we are proud to have presented three performances of a new work by alumnus Benjamin Till, charting the course of the river Nene and celebrating the people and places of the river valley, as it flows from Badby to the sea.

River NeneThe performances included members of the County Youth Orchestra, County Youth Choir, County Youth Brass Band and a massed choir of singers from partner schools in Northamptonshire, Peterborough and Rutland. Over 1600 young people were involved in this project.

World Premiere: 14 November 2017

The world premiere performance at the Music for Youth Proms in the Royal Albert Hall. Video footage courtesy of Black Swan Film and Video.


There were two further performances:

  • Derngate Big Sing: Nene, 8 March 2018
  • Peterborough Cathedral Big Sing: Nene, 17 March 2018

Documentary about the Composition of Nene


About the Nene Project

Nene celebrates the people, places and history of the River Nene, and is based on two folk melodies: one from the Badby Morris Men, who hail from the source of the river and one collected by Vaughan Williams on the Fens. We hear the gentle beginnings of the river as it flows to Northampton and the sound of red kites high in the air. A gentle melody represents Higham Ferrers, the childhood home of the composer and in Oundle we hear the sound of the Drumming Well.

Passing Fotheringhay, and the distant sound of the Nassington Brass Band, we approach Wansford and the Peterborough Steam Railway, built in 1845. As the river flows out onto the Fens we hear the tragic story of Molly, who was lost in the river, but who we hear as a Will’o the Wisp, “guiding the wearisome traveller home.”

In Wisbech the sounds of the Carillon form the setting for a poem by John Clare. Here the tidal river can be seen, and heard, flowing backwards. King John’s army arrive as we approach Sutton Bridge, where the Crown Jewels were lost in the marshes. Then the river finally empties itself into the Wash at the tumultuous end of its 123 mile journey.

Composer Benjamin Till grew up near the river and was a member of the Northamptonshire County Youth Orchestra and County Youth Choir performing at the Schools Proms in the early 1990’s. After further studies he became a professional composer, with a particular interest in Musical Theatre. He selected Nene as the subject matter and embarked on a solo six day adventure to walk the entire length of the river. The resulting composition features many of the sounds and experiences collected on his trip; a true personal odyssey of discovery.

The Proms performance will be the premiere of a shortened version of Nene. It includes an interactive water-powered sculptural art installation created by Festive Road, and will celebrate the launch of the 'Nenescape Landscape Partnership Scheme' a Heritage Lottery funded project promoting the Nene Valley. A full 25 minute version will be performed in March in Derngate, Northampton and Peterborough Cathedral.


But our Molly lives on as a Will' O the Wisp
Dancing and playing on the fens in the mist
And lighting the paths when the ways are not known
And guiding the wearisome traveller home. "


Nene is being presented by NMPAT and Rutland music with the assistance of the following partners:

We also acknowledge financial support from:

  • Arts Council England, Grants for the Arts
  • Northamptonshire Community Foundation, The Compton Fund
  • D'Oyly Carte Opera Trust
  • Nenescape - Heritage Lottery funded
  • The Gordon Robinson Trust, Nigel Cobb Fund

Resources for the full performance of Nene

Nene resources

NMPAT receives support from:
NMPAT is a company Limited by Guarantee (Company No. 7738151) and a registered charity (Charity No. 1145643)