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Robin Hood and the Turkish Knight

Composer: Tim Porter. A Musical Play in the Old English Manner,1973

Composer’s Note:

In 1972 the Beaford Centre in North Devon asked me for a companion piece to my folk-opera Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and I came up with this.

The main numbers were written on a succession of wild autumn nights. These songs proved contemplative on the whole, so I supplemented them with a fragment of an old English song, three Cotswold morris dances, and another old dance tune called the Danish Waltz (which is in fact neither Danish nor a waltz). By now I found that I was getting not so much an opera but more a musical comedy... alternating songs and dialogue hung on a very tenuous plot. Not displeased with this unexpected turn of events, I cooked it up further by adding a touch of a mummers’ play, then a sprinkling of characters from Thomas Hardy... hence the original title The Mellstock Robin Hood. As such it received three productions in 1973 and 1974

Much of the dialogue, and the words of many of the soings, come from Thomas Love Peacock’s witty and lyrical Maid Marian.

This revised version presents the original music in a compact setting, rescored for chamber ensemble and with the Hardyesque accumulation cut away. Though it remains my only musical comedy, and may seem miles away from “serious” opera, it nonethess embodies enduring themes… the seasons, reseurrection, and those mysteries of the forest which cause us to invoke those elusive figures, John Barleycorn, the Green Knight, and Robin Hood.

Cast list

King Richard
Friar Tuck
Little John/Baron
Prince John


1 flute
1 oboe
1 clarinet
1 bassoon
1 violin
1 viola
1 cello


August 1976: West Country tour
January 1978 New Year: West Country tour
Summer 1978: Tour
January 1984: The Folk House, Bristol

Robin among the leaves so green
And Marian his summer's queen
Are figures from our childhood's lore,
But also something rather more.
This winner of a hundred fights
And vanquisher of Norman knights
Was partly Saxon England's way
Of saying that, although it may
Have been outplayed on Senlac Hill
Its constant stream was running still,
And would engulf the Norman few,
Submerging them in me and you.

But further still, long, long ago,
Full fifteen hundred years or so,

The man in green pulled on an oar
When first the Saxons reached this shore;
But as he stepped on land, 'twas clear
He was already living here.
Time passed; the new religion came;
The man in green grinned down the same;
And still he grins from vaults of stone
When you would rather be alone.
It's always Summer in his face,
Because he's Time, but also Place.

Tim Porter