Blue Pearl: A One World Oratorio

The world premiere of Blue Pearl: A One World Oratorio, composed by Steve Banks and performed on 14th May 2022, at St Giles’ Cripplegate, London.

Blue Pearl is an ground-breaking new oratorio for choir, four solo singers and orchestra. It is inspired by the writing of American mystical philosopher, Ken Wilber, and his ‘Integral’ vision (though you don’t need to be familiar with his work to appreciate the piece). It conveys a contemporary view of spirituality which transcends individual religious traditions, embracing humanity, and the earth, as a whole. ‘Blue Pearl’ is the earth, as seen from space: a unity; our precious home.

The music is beautiful and moving, tuneful and harmonic. It moves between diverse styles, integrated by
unifying musical motifs, and by the Integral vision of unity-in-diversity. It includes innovative use of musical structures and motifs to evoke themes in the text. At times it leads into meditative silence.

Blue Pearl can be performed as a whole; or individual movements, or a selection of movements can be
performed, some of which can be arranged for smaller instrumental forces.

Text by Ken Wilber, Thich Nhat Hahn and Steve Banks. Music by Steve Banks.
To read the lyrics and a synopsis, download a PDF of the world premiere programme here.

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I listened to this a couple of months ago when it was first posted on this site, and watched the London performance just this morning. Musically, it is engaging, moving, varietal, and essentially hopeful as the evolutionary story itself is, with surprise and humor and harmonies and depth, and the sum total of all of that.

I thought the use of percussion in the oratorio was particularly impressive, and some of the techniques used on stringed instruments made them sound like drums too! Later, reading Steve’s bio, I saw that he plays drums and the violin, so no wonder their use seemed so effective.

I thought I recognized some nods to jazz, to salsa (briefly, in Anamnesis), and even to circus music! The soloists, and the choir and orchestra, were great, and I would have to compliment the people who filmed this as the camera work was so good, smooth, rightly targeted.

One of the surprises I experienced was how emotionally affected I was during certain pieces, moved. During the “Blue Pearl” movement, I was brought to quiet tears with love and gratitude for the Ground of existence, and for earthly existence. This happened again during the following piece, “Never Lost Never Found,” and yet again, during “Be Still.” Touched me deeply. While I loved the whole oratorio, the pieces that were musically most beautiful to me were the above three, plus “Call Me By My True Names.” That line from Robert Louis Stevenson’s epitaph in the “Death” piece (“I lay me down with a will”) I don’t remember ever reading about or hearing, and how profound, that line.

Thank you Steve Banks for creating such a wonderful piece of integral story-telling music, and sharing it with us here.