Mother Danube is a journey in story and song along the River Danube. It has been written and created by writer and storyteller Sally Pomme Clayton with music and songs composed and played by Emma Clare. The performance has been commissioned by Thames Festival and The European Commission. Mother Danube takes the listener on a journey of 2,860km, through ten European countries, from the Black Forest to the Black Sea. Stories and songs follow the river from source to mouth, and as the listeners travel downstream, they travel back in time.
The Danube was a route from ancient times, wave after wave of peoples have migrated along her waters, most coming from mouth to source, from east to west. Countless groups of peoples settled on her fertile banks. The Danube has been a cradle of European civilization. Sally Pomme has created many tiny stories that evoke the different peoples that lived along her banks, and the languages spoken. From the building of a bridge, to a myth about how the Danube came to be. She tells the story of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who was stationed on the river and wrote a collection of private notes, a form of personal meditation on life and death, that is now published all over the World. She evokes the life of the Vinca people who lived near Belgrade 7000 years ago, leaving behind exquisite pottery, decorated with symbols that tell stories – known as The Danube Script – it is perhaps the earliest writing in existence. She asks if the ancient statue of a female figure, carved in limestone, more than 30,000 years ago, and found near Vienna, is Mother Danube herself.
Emma has been inspired by the music of Bartok, Serbian folksongs, Hungarian dance tunes, Bulgarian children’s songs, and a medieval troubadour song composed by King Richard 1st. She weaves the songs through the stories, and explores how chants and drones can echo spoken words. And of course she plays Strauss’s Blue Danube! The Danube is known as Mother Danube, and Sally Pomme and Emma have imagined the river as a woman, journeying through the stages of life: from a sparkling young maiden who seduces sailors; to a great mother who gives life to fish, plants and birds; to a wise old crone, who has seen everything, splits into three and spills into the Black Sea. The Danube is huge, she has seen empires rise and fall again and again, she has suffered wars, terrors, hunger, displacement. She has been dammed and canalized, and then her flood plains restored. Sally Pomme and Emma would need months to tell all the stories of Mother Danube! But they hope to inspire you to visit her yourself. Join them at five unique venues along the River Thames to hear their performance.