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Artan Sleeps

Composer: Tim Porter. Musical Drama,1970

Based on the story “The Woman with the Net” by Fiona MacLeod

Artan:   What does all this mean?
Bird:    It is not for you to seek a meaning, but to make a song.

Early in the year 563, a dispute between the fiery Irish monk Colum (or Columba) and his tutor led to a disastrous battle, in which three thousand men died. In expiation, Colum banished himself; with twelve followers, he crossed the Moyle in a coracle, and founded a monastery on Iona in the Hebrides. From Iona, Colum’s missionaries set forth against the Picts, to teach them the Celtic Church’s message of “Peace and the oneness-of-all.”

Cast list

Colum, the Saint of Iona
Artan, a Culdee of Iona
Myrdu, King of the Isle of Mist
Oona, his daughter
The Bird (represented by a woman)
Thorkeld, follower of Myrdu
Necta, follower of Myrdu
The Woman of the Caves (2 voices, unseen)
A Culdee
A Warrior
Chorus of men and women
2 Whisperers, who also play bass drums

All these persons, save only Artan, Oona, the Bird, and the Whisperers may be represented by members of the Chorus.


1 sopranino recorder
4 flutes
1 trumpet
2 percussion
1 piano accordian
1 celtic harp
4 violins
3 violas
3 cellos


Sept 1970: Cheltenham College Junior School Assembly Hall