Terry Helenson's Revolutionary Dreams

for soprano and ensemble (c.21') in collaboration with Gareth Mattey

How many times have utopian thinkers been derided as dreamers? How many young idealists who want to change the world are told they need to stop dreaming and be a bit more realistic about the world? These socialist visions of a world at harmony and everyone united could never really work – it’s just a pipe dream!

But dreams hold so much power. They destabilise and undermine what is real. They offer alternatives that, waking, we might not consider. They tell us things about ourselves we might never consciously think. They offer a space to reconsider. They also can be nightmares and shock us into recognising the real nightmares happening all around us.

It’s from this that Terry Helenson’s Revolutionry Dreams first began: Terry Helenson, once the radical student revolutionary, now finds himself stuck in a boring job with an average salary. But no matter how stuck he may be in the real world, his dreams carry on the revolutionary fervour once so dear to him. Drawing on medieval dream poetry, they offer him visions of the past, of the nightmarish present and a thought about the future.

Now all he has to do is wake up.


Commissioned by as part of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group's Marx.Music project and premiered by BCMG, soprano Elizabeth Atherton and conductor Michael Wendeberg at Kurfürstliches Palais, Trier, Germany, 2nd September 2018.