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New musical tells story of R34 airship

A moment in aviation history – the first double crossing of the Atlantic – has inspired a new musical.

Composer Peter Creswell
Composer Peter Creswell

In July 2019, it will be 100 years since the R34 airship flew from Scotland to New York and then docked at the Pulham St Mary air station on its return.

“At first, I thought, well, where do you start on something like this,” said Redgrave composer Peter Creswell.

“But the more I went into events, the more fascinated I became, and things began to fall into place.”

Commissioned by Diss museum manager Basil Abbott, who is an authority on Pulham, Mr Creswell said that All Aboard The R.34!, which he describes as a musical comedy, closely followed the true story.

The composition, which will be performed by a chorus with soloists and a live orchestra, includes more than 30 songs.

Events which are retold include the night-time take-off, the discovery of a cat and a stowaway, and the crisis when fuel supplies ran low in storms and American destroyers were sent out to tow the airship to shore.

“President Woodrow Wilson welcomes the crew in New York. The airship is diverted to Pulham on the return journey. Various ‘ladies’ become involved in the show, including a rich society hostess who offers $1,000 for the cat,” said Mr Creswell.

The story of the triumph of the R34 ultimately ended in sadness when, 10 years later, Captain George Scott, who had commanded the crew of 27, died in an airship crash.

There will be a preview of 14 of the songs in East Harling church on September 29 and a full performance at Diss Corn Hall on July 13.

Tickets for the Harling performance are £10 from the post office, Market Stores, or on the door.

Mr Creswell has composed in all genres of music and the last major presentation of his work in Diss was the full scale oratorio David, which took place in St Mary’s Church in 2014.

“The musical is two hours long and combines several genres, including ragtime, swing and operetta,” added Mr Creswell.

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