Conquering the Antarctic - a concert to mark the Scott centenary

JUSTANNOUNCED: Actor Hugh Bonneville joins Scott centenary concert.

Today (17 January) marks the 100th anniversary of the day Captain Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition reached the South Pole only to discover that the Norwegian Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it. His endeavour to be the first to reach the Pole and “secure for the British Empire the honour of that achievement” had been dashed, but what then followed was the tragedy of Scott and his colleagues perishing on their return.

Scott, Wilson, Bowers, Oates and Evans began the long trek back to base, Evans dying en route. With supplies perilously low, Captain Oates left the tent with the now immortal words “I’m just going outside and may be some time” in the heroic hope his colleagues would be able to survive on the remaining rations. Ultimately, knowing they were dying, the men wrote moving letters home, Scott’s memorably entitled ‘To my widow’. That so much of their venture is known is thanks to the photographs of Herbert Ponting, letters and Scott’s diary: “These rough notes, and our dead bodies, must tell the tale”.

The centenary is marked at Symphony Hall by a fascinating concert on Friday 3 February the City of London Sinfonia, in collaboration with the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI), which retraces the expedition through music, images and words.

Excerpts from Vaughan Williams’s film score Scott of the Antarctic will be interwoven with moving readings from Scott’s diary and letters read by actor Hugh Bonneville – known to millions as Lord Grantham in ITV’s award-winning Downton Abbey.

Some of Herbert Ponting’s incredible original photographs of stunning scenery and day-to-day life in the Antarctic (now preserved for the nation) will be shown on a big screen during a performance of Vaughan Williams’s Sinfonia Antartica.

The concert also includes the chance to hear the world premiere of British composer Cecilia McDowall’s Seventy Degrees Below Zero, a work for solo tenor and orchestra inspired by Scott’s final letter ‘To my widow’.

Full concert information

This concert is part of Symphony Hall’s 21st Anniversary Festival