“Westerly Gale is one of a series of works I am writing which take their inspiration from the fourteen huge canvases hung the length of the nave of St. Magnus Cathedral.
“The subject was a twelfth century crusade, or rather, pilgrimage, led by Earl Rognvald II of Orkney, from Kirkwall to Jerusalem: the fifth canvas, by Erlend Brown, bore the words Westerly gale in Biscay, salt in the bread broken.
A purely orchestral rondo, plainsong based, sets the scene - what commences as a fairly boisterous sea-passage becomes more violent, until at the height of the fury the chorus bursts in with a description of events unfolding, borrowed from the Biblical account of Jonah's storm.
“There follows a prayer for those at sea, which I imagine the voyagers on board themselves singing, and the work closes with a song of the newly proclaimed Saint Magnus, Rognvald's uncle and patron saint of Orkney - a contemplative thanksgiving for safe delivery.”
—Peter Maxwell Davies
“A stunningly evocative, wind-whipped, and wave-washed piece of sea music (nobody, but nobody, write up a storm like this man) . . . beautifully written.”
—The Herald [UK]