Pet Shop Boys premiere Alan Turing tribute
- 24 July 2014
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Pop duo the Pet Shop Boys have unveiled their latest work, a tribute to wartime codebreaker Alan Turing, at the first of this year's Late Night Proms.
The 50-minute "musical biography" featured an excerpt from Gordon Brown's public 2009 apology for Turing's 1952 conviction for homosexual activity.
Narrated by Juliet Stevenson, A Man from the Future received a standing ovation at London's Royal Albert Hall.
Chrissie Hynde also performed alongside Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe themselves.
The Pretenders singer gave renditions of three lesser-known Pet Shop Boys songs with the BBC Concert Orchestra, before being joined by Tennant in a version of 1987 hit Rent.
The premiere of A Man from the Future precedes the release of The Imitation Game, a new film about Turing starring Benedict Cumberbatch that will open the London Film Festival in October.
The work of Turing and his Bletchley Park colleagues during World War Two helped accelerate Allied efforts to read German naval messages enciphered with the Enigma machine.
Turing went on to kill himself in 1954, two years after being prosecuted for gross indecency. Last year he received a posthumous royal pardon.
The Pet Shop Boys' piece was inspired by Britain's Greatest Codebreaker, a Channel 4 docu-drama about Turing's life, and included excerpts from Andrew Hodges' 1992 biography.
"Turing was way ahead of his time in the realms of both technology and sexuality," said Tennant and Lowe ahead of Wednesday's concert, which can be heard via the BBC iPlayer.
"His open expression of his homosexuality was astonishingly brave and forward-looking at a time when gay men were relentlessly persecuted by the government."
Divided into eight sections, the Pet Shop Boys' ambitious, sometimes atonal work marked a departure from such radio-friendly tracks as It's a Sin and West End Girls.
Yet it still contained elements of the group's recognisable computerised sound, alongside contributions from an 18-member chamber choir.
Stevenson, best known for such films as Truly Madly Deeply and Bend It Like Beckham, delivered her occasionally sombre narration from inside a sound-proof booth on stage.
The evening ended with a curtain call which Lowe, dressed informally in jeans, trainers and baseball cap, had to be gently persuaded to take part in.
The Pet Shop Boys concert, which also included an orchestral medley containing music from nine of their songs, was not the only first of the Proms' opening week.
Sunday saw the inaugural BBC Sport Prom, a special concert featuring theme tunes from such programmes as Match of the Day, Horse of the Year and Ski Sunday.
Gabby Logan presented the event, which included on-stage interviews with cricketer turned broadcaster Phil Tufnell and the former Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba.
Music by Mozart, Prokofiev and John Williams also featured in the concert, which was broadcast simultaneously on Radio 3 and 5 live.