An astonishing musical performance was staged on the Thames on Saturday (Sept 14th).

The musical instruments of 1513: A Ships' Opera were steam whistles, bells, horns, hooters, sirens and cannon from an armada of historic vessels. The ships are not carrying the instruments, they are the instruments.

The water-borne opera was staged by sculptor Richard Wilson and directors and artists, Zatorski + Zatorski.


Earlier we wrote:

It will be the centrepiece of this year’s Mayor’s Thames Festival. It begins on Saturday morning when a lone ship – the Barking – sets sail to join an armada of historic vessels in central London.

The day-long, three-act performance will reach its climax in a spectacular sound, steam and light display in the Pool of London at Tower Bridge later that night (7.45pm).

The final act gets underway when Tower Bridge raises its bascules to welcome, from downriver, the armada of historic vessels from the age of sail, steam and diesel that have joined the journey along the way.

The fleet will join HMS Belfast, which will fire its cannons as part of the performance; it will also move its guns for the first time since 1971 when it was permanently moored at the Pool of London.

Trinity Lightship will swing her beam of light across the historic and modern architecture of the river skyline from the Shard to the Tower of London.

This one-off, 40-mile performance from the sea to the heart of London celebrates the importance of London’s shared maritime past and present. It also recognises the 500th anniversary of the mariners’ protest to King Henry VIII about the lack of safe pilotage on the Thames. This led to the Royal Charter of Trinity House, which today exists to uphold the safety and well-being of seafarers.  
For 1513, Richard Wilson and Zatorski + Zatorski have gathered 3 historic steam ships, an historic diesel tug, 2 trading Thames tugs, a battleship, a 19th century sailing ship, the Trinity Lightship, an iconic bridge, 8 Trinity House bells, as well as a large number of rare ships’ whistles, foghorns and hooters from the private collection of Rowland Humble – owner of the world’s largest collection of steam whistles and air hooters – to form a maritime orchestra.                                                                                                                                                  
Tthe work features an original score by Richard Wilson and Ansuman Biswas, a renowned artist and experimental musician

Richard Wilson said: “These are not meaningless sounds out of place, these are exactly the sounds you should hear on water –  meaningful sounds that were designed to call out, to warn and to save lives.  All of our sound sources and the musical structures generated are unusual because of the physical relationship between the way the instruments work and how they have to be played.”

Story dated Sept 16th 2013