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Photo: Camera Press
Aldeburgh Festival, 1958

Britten, Benjamin

Noye's Fludde (1957)

Duration: 50 minutes
The Chester Miracle Play set to music by Britten, for adults' and children's voices, children's chorus, chamber ensemble and children's orchestra

The text is from 'English Miracle Plays, Moralities and Interludes' (E,F,G,I,Pt,S)

A,BBar,speaker; children's roles: 3Tr,3S,chorus professional orchestra:treble recorder-pft(4hands)-org-timp-string quintet; amateur/children's orchestra: recorder band-bugles-perc:hand-bells/BD/TD/SD/tamb/cyms/tgl/whip/gong/Chin.bl/wind machine/sandpaper/slung mugs-strings .
Abbreviations (PDF).

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
Orford Church, Aldeburgh Festival
Colin Graham, director
Conductor: Charles Mackerras
Company: Aldeburgh Festival


THE VOICE OF GODSpeaking role
MRS. NOYEContralto
MRS. SEM, MRS. HAM, MRS. JAFFETGirl sopranos
MRS. NOYE'S GOSSIPSGirl sopranos


After the congregation has sung the hymn 'Lord Jesus, think on me', the Voice of God is heard warning Noye that he has decided to destroy sinful man and all living things, save Noye and his family. They must therefore construct a boat according to God's specifications. Noye and his family start building — all except his wife, who sits drinking with her friends. Meanwhile Noye is instructed to collect two of all the animals. The animals duly enter, and since Mrs Noye continues to refuse to get on the boat her sons carry her aboard just before the water sweeps away her gossipy friends. At the height of the flood all join in the hymn 'Eternal Father, strong to save'. After forty days, Noye sends a raven to seek for dry land but it does not return. Next he sends a dove, which returns with an olive branch in its beak — a mark of peace between God and man. When Noye and his passengers disembark, God sets a rainbow in the sky as a pledge of never flooding the earth again. All join in the hymn 'The spacious firmament on high'.

Repertoire Note
Noye’s Fludde, completed in December 1957 and first performed during the 1958 Aldeburgh Festival, is his most extended and elaborate work for children. In common with Saint Nicolas and The Little Sweep, the work is written in such as way as to combine professional and amateur performers, the music often tailored to take account of the abilities of less accomplished players but without any sense of compromise or writing down. Most of the main vocal parts are written for children (the exceptions being Noye himself, Noye’s wife and the Voice of God) and the orchestral forces comprise strings, recorders, bugles, handbells and a large assortment of percussion including such home-made instruments as sandpaper blocks and slung mugs. The congregation also gets the opportunity to participate in three hymn-settings, ‘Lord Jesus, think on me’, ‘Eternal Father, strong to save’ and ‘The spacious firmament’.

Britten’s unerring skill in seamlessly integrating these various elements with musical invention of a consistently high quality is undoubtedly one of his finest achievements while the church setting and general method of presentation clearly point the way forward to the ‘Church Parables’ of the 1960s.

Reproduced by kind permission of the Britten-Pears Library

Comic, Poetic

Environment, Ethics, Religion

Recommended Recording
Owen Brannigan/Sheila Rex/David Pinto/Darien Angadi/Stephen Alexander/Trevor Anthony/Caroline Clack/Marie-Thérèse Pinto/Eileen O'Donovan/English Opera Group Orchestra/Norman Del Mar
Decca 436 3972

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