I am currently writing a new musical about Æthelflæd the Warrior Queen of Mercia. It’s still in it’s first conception but I’ve written about five songs and dances and nearly completed the first draft of the script. It is to be a school musical, for a Middle or Secondary School. Almost all my shows have been for Early Years or Key Stage 1 so this is a little more challenging – some of the songs fluctuate between 7/8, 5/4 and 9/8 time signatures! But although the rhythms look difficult at first glance, I’ve designed it into clear sections so it’s easier than you think.
The synopsis of the musical is not quite finished but basically, like the historical account, the Anglo-Saxons have lost most of their land to the Vikings and that stands between them is the Kingdom of Wessex led by King Alfred. They are paying the “Danegeld” tribute tax to the Vikings so they don’t attack Wessex. This is not a historical musical but a little more fantastical, so in this story Æthelflæd, the eldest daughter of King Alfred is captured by Vikings who want to use her to bargain for more gold. Meanwhile Odin, the King of the Norse Gods is interested in Æthelflæd because he is dissatisfied with the arrogance and cruelty of his own Viking race. Odin decides that the fight is too one-sided and does not want a world where his people have wiped out an entire nation. He commands Thor to create a storm to take Æthelflæd to Asgard.
At Asgard Æthelflæd meets the Norse Gods and understands that she has been brought by Odin to be trained to be the first Saxon Valkyrie. This causes uproar within the throne room of Valhalla but no-one will go against Odin’s orders. Æthelflæd receives training from Thor the God of War, Hermod the Messenger God, Beyla Goddess of Mystery, Freya Goddess of Love and Fertility and Odin’s wife Frigg the Goddess of Destiny. Meanwhile the leaders of the Great Heathen Army – Guthrum, Ubba and Ivar are planning a raid with the intention of defeating Alfred and taking Wessex. Guthrum curses the Gods and declares the glory of war will go to him alone. When Odin hears of this from Hermod, he is angry and doubles his efforts to help Æthelflæd. She becomes a Saxon Valkyrie and returns to England determined to rid England of the Vikings. Alongside King Alfred she inspires the Saxon army to battle and they push the Vikings back to their Danish hinterland. She is acknowledged as Æthelflæd Lady of Mercia and the musical ends.
The main idea for the set is that it will be a huge Viking longship but I also need the Kingdom of Valhalla to be portrayed on stage. It’s scored for strings, flute, clarinet, trumpet and lots of percussion. I might also add a trombone part and some other instruments later. Big Chinese Drums will be needed – this is not a problem for me as we have loads of these in schools.
Anyway, here is some of the music. I will be working on this for next year and if anyone is interested in putting it on in 2021 I should have it all finished by January. I am very willing to respond to any criticism in historical facts or practical matters such as if the music is too short or too long or if you think any lyrics need to be changed. I’m hardly a lyricist but I’ve never found anyone who wants to write the words so I end up writing them badly! I hope you enjoy the following songs and feel free to comment below.