Shall Earth No More Inspire Thee

In the second half of 2018 Adrian McNally and The Unthanks were commissioned by the Brontë Parsonage Museum to compose a song cycle, based on Emily Brontë’s poems set to music and performed by The Unthanks.

The project brought together contemporary musicians, Emily's poetry, the moors, and the museum collection. Emily's piano had been recently restored, was retuned for Adrian, and played during the recording. Adrian told us that the piano '...requires the pianist to play lighter than they have ever played a piano. It took a while to realise this but as soon as I did I developed a real affinity with the instrument.' He described the instrument as '...what I've been looking for, for years.'

Adrian also said that within Emily's poems there is '...so much of her poetry that is really rhythmic that the poems almost read like songs and they were ideal for putting to music...' and that you '... feel like you're reading words of integrity and truth from someone who perhaps never thought her words would be read, and I really admire her.'

Rachel Unthank said that 'this project is a new and exciting thing for us, but in a way we treat it like we treat anything, which is to tell the story of the words that are there' and Becky Unthank told us, 'I think we always look to be moved by words, and emotionally, and with Emily Bronte's poetry – they're very passionate and dark, and that's something that we always look for in material'.

The project developed as Adrian, Becky and Rachel explored the poetry and the piano, resulting in a song cycle that visitors can listen to whilst walking up from the Parsonage, through the churchyard, up to Penistone Hill, and back to the Parsonage.

After an initial concert of the work at Leeds town hall in 2018, The Unthanks went on to tour the work nationwide with the 'Emily Bronte Song Cycle'.