The Man in the Straw Hat

Commissioned by the Fleet Singers and first performed on March 22nd, 2014, St Ann's Church, Highgate West Hill.

Soloist: Nathan Taylor

"Safe in a world of trains and buttered toast where things inanimate could feel and think."

This choral work, scored for choir, soloist, string quintet and piano, commemorates the 30th anniversary of the death of poet laureate, Sir John Betjeman, and was premiered in the church where he was baptised. Betjeman wrote a great deal about Highgate, Gospel Oak and Kentish Town, which is the catchment area of the Fleet Singers.

A poetry workshop was run by John Hegley and Cicely Herbert at St Ann's in the summer of 2013, which got local people writing lyrics inspired by the themes and locations of Betjeman's work. Benjamin set a selection of these community-written poems to music, alongside the words of Sir John himself. The soloist performs the Betjeman poems whilst the choir performs the community responses to them.