Scottish Chamber Orchestra: The Boy Who Kicked Pigs

City Halls, Glasgow, Fri 10 Nov; Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Sat 11 Nov


Not normally thought of as a writer, the fourth Doctor Who’s somewhat grotesque short novel The Boy Who Kicked Pigs is the basis of the SCO’s commission from Irish-born composer Brian Irvine. While Tom Baker’s tale is not for the faint-hearted, it fits well with the orchestra’s evening of Gothic horror that embraces Frankenstein!, with composer/conductor HK Gruber, and Bernard Hermann’s film music from Pyscho.

All about a horrible 13-year-old who hates humans so much he comes up with endless evil ways to kill them, the book is a sort of morality tale in which the nasty Robert Caligari get his come-uppance through being eaten to death by killer rats. About his new score, Irvine says, ‘It has some orchestral music, some singing and some narration. It takes little extracts and characterises them through music and speech.’ Hinting that this version might not be his last, he says, ‘In many ways, I’d like to do it as a full-on music-theatre piece. For now, I’m focussing on a couple of episodes in Robert’s life to give a flavour of what it’s about.’

As well as being relatively unknown as an author, Irvine considers Baker to be rather odd. ‘A lot of people find it a bit offensive,’ he says, ‘but I’ve thought of it in the vein of the terrible stuff that happens in cartoons, when you can get away with it. It’s dark, awkward in parts and quite a challenge to turn it into something with energy and character.’

Alongside the SCO, a scratch youth choir will help bring Irvine’s score to life. ‘Quite simply,’ he says, ‘you can create things with young people that have a strength and individuality, which, in a sense, is an exciting genre of music all of its own. I’m interested in making things with young people that professionals cannot do.’

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