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Dreams for Marcie (1986) for mezzo-soprano and string quartet

Text by the composer

Duration: c.35 minutes

Commissioned by the Edinburgh Contemporary Arts Trust

This work was originally conceived as a study for McQueen's projected opera Jonestown, based on Jim Jones's People's Temple sect, which perished in the jungles of Guyana in 1978. The eponymous heroine of the title was Jones's wife, Marceline.

The text is cast in the form of either monologue, or unanswered dialogue between Marcie and Jones.
There are three vocal movements: framed by a Prelude and Postlude in which the string players assume the roles of compound security guards. Their cries of "Alert!" summon the faithful to the many test-runs of the suicide ritual in which Jones first tested his flock and then killed them.

The first monologue is entitled "Ariadne", symbolising the thread by which Jones pulled susceptible women under his influence, through a mixture of religious fervour and sexual charisma.

Preacher, what's in your smile?

The second vocal movement is entitled "The Road". This dramatises the moment when Marie confronts Jones after discovering him with a young woman Bridie Pastourelle. She longs for the past but resolves to dedicate her life to the Church they founded and go down the dark road that fate has marked out for them.

Oh, why can't we stop time?
When we reach the turning point
The point when there's no pretending any more
Aren't we in a movie? Can't we do a re-write?
Huh! Reality is death's crutch!"

At last the end of that road is reached in Jonestown. In "White Night", the third vocal movement, Marcie catalogues the litany of paranoid "betrayals" that lead to the ritual finally being played out for real in mass suicide.

Well Jim
You tried to liberate Jerusalem
(Lest we forget thee)
But it always goes wrong...

The vocal sections are separated by two substantial instrumental "commentaries" for the quartet; forming a symmetrical arch form, built in six blocks.

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