War and Peace

Sarah Llewellyn has composed intoxicating music for a gloriously rumbustious town band

Rupert Christian, The Telegraph

Tolstoy’s thrilling epic re-imagined by the spectacular Giffords Circus driven by vibrant and relentless musical score.

Giffords Circus War and Peace company in ring dancing in period costume photo by Leah Llewellyn

Director: Irina Brown

Producer: Nell Gifford

Composer and Musical Direction: Sarah Llewellyn

Lyrics: Kit Hesketh Harvey

Choreographer: Fleur Darkin

The Album

‘I love the music, it’s a massive highlight: the mood shifts, rhythm and brass are extraordinary, melodies beautiful and this year’s devil’s stomp makes my hairs stand on end’

Recorded and produced with James Towler at Steve Winwood’s Studio, Wincraft Studios, for limited edition signed CDs please get in touch

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Music Credits

Sarah Llewellyn conducts with headphones on Sarah conducting at CD recording, photo by Leif le Page
Band rehearsal Band rehearsals, photo by Christine Bottine
Circus band performing playing violins, saxophones and brass instruments. Musicians in period costume photo by Leah Llewellyn
Giffords Circus War and Peace production, photo by Leah Llewellyn, Musicians and circus performers wave goodbye to audience in sawdust circus ring. Snow falling. photo by Leah Llewellyn

Composer: Sarah Llewellyn

Lyricist: Kit Hesketh-Harvey

Composer assistant: Karen Hutt

The Band

James Keay – Band leader – Piano, percussion, voice
Francesca Simmons – Violin, musical saw, Soprano sax,voice
Claire Barbier – Vocal leader – voice, percussion, piano
Jean Goubert – Alto saxophone, banjo, drums, voice
Beth Schofield – Tenor sax, flute, piccolo, recorder, clarinet, voice

Louise Marsland – Baritone & alto sax, clarinet, flute, voice
Jannah Warlow – Voice, Tenor sax, violin
Penny Callow – Cello, flute
Sam Alty – Guitar, double bass, trombone, voice
Gemma Fuller – Trumpet, voice, percussion

Valentine Chatelet – Trumpet, voice
Celine Biewesch – Euphonium, percussion, voice
David Insua-Cao – Principle percussion, voice
Natalia Demjen – Violin
Christine Bottine – Vocals

Sarah says

The music for this show started to emerge when I had a power-cut. Throughout the day I sat at the piano and wrote undisturbed by any phone or internet and I continued through the night by candlelight inspired by the world of war and peace and early 19th century Russia. The main themes for this show began to take shape.

The process of writing for a project such as this has involved burying myself in the extraordinary world of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, researching  Russian music, in particular discovering the ‘circus’ in the work of Shostakovich,  canvassing for new, dynamic musicians to join the band,  many hours at the piano, studying the circus acts and structuring the music to work with and celebrate them, collaborating with Nell, Fleur, Kit and above all Irina whose direction, dedication and devotion to this piece was a constant incentive and stimulus.

One of the most key factors in writing for the Giffords band is to write both challenging and enjoyable music to play and to be able to write specifically for the individuals within the ensemble. The score is composed for and developed with these talented, energetic and committed players and I’ve been so lucky to have worked with them. Special thanks to Karen Hutt and James Keay for all their input and invention they have contributed to the music.

More of Sarah's work with Giffords Circus

Musical and show highlights

Listen to extracts

Battle of Borodino extract

Russia gets stabbed extract

Moscou Deserte extract

Natasha's Dance extracts

Napoleon extract

Russia's Revenge extract

Natasha's Dream extracts

Drinking Song extracts

Endless Sky extract

Doves of Peace extracts

Mummers extracts

War and Peace music showreel

Helene, Horse and Hawk

Old Oak Song extract

Clown in front of giant book of War and Peace Tweedy the clown, photo by Andrew Rees
..there's real storytelling here, and the kind of attention to detail that drapes the tent with giant scrawled excerpts from the book and gives a real Russian twist to Sarah Llewellyn's fine music played by the live band . . . Brilliant.

Libby Purves, The Times

Snatches of folk music from a distant band float past on an early summer breeze . . a tiny colourful and thoroughly unusual troupe

Patricia Carswell, The Telegraph

the unique charm that is Giffords, plenty of circus skills threaded along the narrative of a pared down version of the Russian classic. Full of drama, rousing music and some inspired clowning from Tweedy the Clown

The Hay-festival, Hereford Times

The original score and live music is one of the things that makes Giffords so memorable'

Laura, Word Press