the Violet
John Ogdon's opera based on A Voyage to Arcturus

The Royal Northern College of Music’s archive of pianist/composer John Ogdon’s papers includes an incomplete vocal score entitled A voyage to Arcturus, being an opera “based on the novel by David Lindsay and biblical quotations” comprising two books of music manuscript, dated February and June 1984. The music is dedicated “with gratitude and affection to David Chamberlain and the Mansfield Choral Society and to Arthur Scargill and Mr. MacGregor in memory of the Miners’ Strike.”

Charles Beauclerk, in his 2014 biography of Ogdon, offers some more information:

“From Ogdon’s notes and adaptation it is clear that he saw the novel as a religious work, and it is fascinating to see how he has woven in quotations from the Old and New Testaments. He transforms Oceaxe, a wild woman with three eyes and three arms, into Oceania, to whom he then applies the description from Book 12 of Revelation of a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars... All John’s quotations, whether from the Bible or the novel, are evidently written down from memory...”

Piano Man: Life of John Ogdon, by Charles Beauclerk

Another item of interest in the Ogdon Papers is the score to Kaleidoscope #8, the eighth in a series of 10 sonatas for solo piano, itself subdivided into 10 pieces, one of which is called “The song of Joiwind — from A voyage to Arcturus”. Kaleidoscope #8 is subtitled “Woodcuts of BBC Radio (1928-1950)”, its music being inspired by broadcasts put out by the BBC, which probably means that Ogdon heard the BBC dramatisation of Arcturus. (There is also a piece in Kaleidoscope #8 titled “Titus Groan — Boy in Darkness”.)

See this page for a complete listing of the Ogdon Papers.