The idea behind ‘Playing with Destiny’ is drawn from the old Cornish legend of Jan Tregeagle. There are several different versions of the Tregeagle myth but the basis of the story remains the same – that of a wicked man’s spirit being set a series of impossible tasks in order to make amends for his evil life and to keep his soul out of hell until judgement day. The legend, when read in full, is fairly detailed, and therefore the piece does not attempt to recreate the whole of Tregeagle’s story. Instead, I focussed on three of the tasks which Tregeagle was set, as the basis for the piece.
After an introduction, which portrays Tregeagle’s impending doom coupled with his dark, evil character, the rest of the first movement describes Tregeagle’s first task. This task was to empty out Dozmary Pool – a gloomy lake on Bodmin Moor which was believed to be bottomless – using a limpet shell with a hole in it! This task ended in disaster as Tregeagle got bored with his futile task, kept stopping work, and was eventually chased off by a group of closely watching demons!
The second movement describes Tregeagle weaving ropes out of sand – another fruitless task as the incoming tide kept destroying his work. The final part of the piece shows Tregeagle at Land’s End sweeping the sand from cove to cove – until eternity. It is said that on a stormy, winter night you can hear Tregeagle roaring and howling at the hopelessness of his task.
Elizabeth Winters (2010)