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Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio is a live album by Paul McCartney released in 1991 and his first major foray into classical music. Composed in collaboration with Carl Davis to commemorate The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra's 150th anniversary, the project received a large amount of media attention upon it's unveiling in June 1991.


This recording was captured at the oratorio's dress rehearsal and premiere at Liverpool Cathedral with McCartney in attendance and features noted professional classical singers Kiri Te Kanawa, Jerry Hadley, Sally Burgess, and Willard White re-enacting the roles in the oratorio. The recording was engineered by John Timperley.

Music and story[]

Consisting of eight movements, the story of the oratorio loosely follows McCartney's own lifetime, with the main character, Shanty, who is born in 1942 in Liverpool, raised to believe that "being born where you are born carries with it certain responsibilities". After his school days where he often "sagged off" (Liverpool slang for skipping class), Shanty begins working and meets his future bride, Mary Dee. Following the death of his father, Shanty and Mary Dee are married and are forced to deal with the rigours of balancing a happy marriage and their careers. Amid a quarrel, Mary Dee reveals that she is pregnant and after surviving a nearly fatal accident, gives birth to their son. Thus, the cycle of life in Liverpool carries on.


The commercial reaction for the work was strong, with the oratorio spending many weeks atop the classical charts worldwide, and evening charting at number 177 in regular album chart in the US. Critical reaction was less positive, the virtually unanimous verdict being that the work, while attractive, was simplistic, overlong and, given it's aspirations, insubstantial.

Track listing[]

All pieces by Paul McCartney and Carl Davis. Their first four movements are on CD disc one, the second four on disc two.

Disc one[]

  1. "Movement I: War" — 9:40
  2. "Movement II: School" — 12:13
  3. "Movement III: Crypt" — 10:04
  4. "Movement IV: Father" — 11:16

Disc two[]

  1. "Movement V: Wedding" — 8:36
  2. "Movement VI: Work" — 15:02
  3. "Movement VII: Crises" — 21:08
  4. "Movement VIII: Peace" — 9:26


  • Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra — orchestra
  • Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir — chorus
  • Liverpool Cathedral Choristers — chorus
  • Carl Davis — conductor
  • Ian Tracey — conductor
  • Kiri Te Kanawa — soprano: Mary Dee
  • Jerry Hadley — tenor: Shanty
  • Sally Burgess — mezzo-soprano: Miss Inkley, Chief Mourner, Nurse
  • Willard White — bass: Headmaster, Preacher, Mr. Dingle
  • Jeremy Budd — treble: Boy Soloist


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See also[]