Julian Philips was appointed as Glyndebourne’s first ever Composer-in-Residence in 2006 in partnership with the University of Sussex, and has spent the last three years working closely with Glyndebourne’s pioneering Education Department. As a result of the success of this residency, Glyndebourne independently commissioned Knight Crew, a full-length community opera for its main stage in 2010 – Glyndebourne’s largest ever outreach project. Knight Crew, with a libretto by Nicky Singer, is a modern ‘urban’ adaptation of the King Arthur legend, directed by John Fulljames, Artistic Director of The Opera Group.
The six protagonists, performed by professional singers, join 60 young performers, as well as a ‘Mothers Chorus’ formed of local adults, and in the pit a combination of professional and youth players conducted by Nicholas Collon. BBC Two’s forthcoming programme ‘Gareth goes to Glyndebourne’, follows the project from the perspective of Knight Crew’s chorus-master, Gareth Malone. Philips has never shied away from co-opting contrasting musical styles for dramatic purposes, and his score is a riot of references, taking in popular and operatic lyric idioms in a way that allows seamless interaction between professional soloists and chorus. Indeed, part of the magic of the music and of John Fulljames's direction is that it allows influence to flow from innocence to experience as well as vice versa, adding a quality to the solo performances, notably of Yvonne Howard (Myrtle) and Pascal Charbonneau (Art), that would have been lacking with a more experienced supporting cast. Add to the mix Es Devlin's ingenious stage design and Nicholas Collon's excellent, transparent conducting and the overall effect was exhilarating, and not a little humbling. (Guy Dammann, Guardian)