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Towards the psalms : a cycle of six songs for voice and piano

by Betty Beath (2004)

Audio Sample

Performance by Betty Beath, Margaret Schindler from the CD Music of Betty Beath

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Music of Betty Beath


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Music of Betty Beath

Library shelf no. CD 1990 [Not for loan]

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Work Overview

In mid-April, 2004, I accepted a commission to write a composition based on text by the Canadian writer Anne Michaels, who was to be a distinguished guest at the Brisbane Writers Festival in 2004 and who was author of the award winning novel Fugitive Pieces. My brief was to select text from the novel Fugitive Pieces and create a song cycle which would incorporate narration, and which would be performed by The Southern Cross Soloists. Although at first I found the responsibility of selecting the texts (within a short time-frame) to be daunting, I found the whole experience very satisfying and in many respects deeply moving. The resulting cycle I titled "Towards the Psalms", which was how Anne Michaels desribed the possibility of sound waves carrying 'on to infinity' imagining them 'somewhere in the galaxy, moving towards the psalms'.

There are six songs in the cycle. Each of the texts strongly appealed to me. I began with The Lament of Ovid since it is an actual quotation from the book and although ancient (Ovid's dates 43BC-AD17) the text strikingly depicts events we are experiencing and enduring at this present time.

In creating the cycle I sought to communicate and express, to capture, to 'feel out' the emotion, the mood, the ambience of the words as I had experienced them. Communication of the text was of primary importance to me; but musically, the accompanying instrumentation is equally important.

I made two arrangements of this work: the first for medium voice and piano and the second for medium voice and instrumental ensemble.

Work Details

Year: 2004

Instrumentation: Voice, piano.

Duration: 20 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — AMEB diploma/professional.

Text selected by the composer from the novel 'Fugitive pieces' by Anne Michaels.

Winner of the 2008 Pacific Opera Vocal Writing Prize 2008 presented by the Fellowship of Australian Composers Inc., in association with Pacific Opera.

Maria Okunev, performed this cycle in the program she presented at the 10th Miettas Song Recital Award held in Melbourne in July, 2008 and was awarded First Prize.


Performances of this work

14 Mar 2010: at A celebration of Australian Women composers (St Mary's Kangaroo Point (Brisbane)). Featuring Elizabeth Green, Zoe Taylor.

7 Mar 2010: at A celebration of Australian Women composers (Chapter Hall, St Mary's Cathedral (Sydney)). Featuring Zoe Taylor, Elizabeth Green.

30 Sep 04: Customs House, Brisbane. Featuring Sally McKenzie, Southern Cross Soloists, Margaret Schindler.

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