Towards the psalms : for voice and ensemble
by Betty Beath (2004)
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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.
Instrumentation: Voice, oboe, clarinet in B flat, bassoon, horn in F, piano.
Duration: 20 min.
Difficulty: Advanced — AMEB diploma/professional.
Contents note: No-one is born just once -- Bella and I enter a dream -- The lament of Ovid -- Mones and I ... best friends forever -- Love makes you see a place differently -- Towards the psalms.
Dedication note: Dedicated to Margaret Schindler. Dedicated to Margaret Schindler, soprano, who gave it its first performance
Commission note: Commissioned by the 2004 Brisbane Writers Festival for performance in the Voices Series of four concerts
Text selected by the composer from the novel 'Fugitive pieces' by Anne Michaels.
Individual songs can be performed separately.
- In the form/style of: Song Cycles
Performances of this work
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