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Un poilu Australien (duos: mezzo-soprano, bass with chamber ensemble)

by Elliott Gyger (2015)

War letters


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War letters : new music commemorating WWI / Halcyon.

Library shelf no. CD 2798 [Not for loan]

Un poilu Australien


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Un poilu Australien / music by Elliott Gyger ; words by Jacques Playoust.

Library shelf no. 783.12542/GYG 2 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

Jacques Playoust was born in Flanders in 1884, and emigrated to Australia with his family at the age of five. When World War I broke out, he returned to France to fight in the French army. Where the young Australian volunteers enlisted in the service of a mother country most of them had never seen, Jacques was in a very real sense defending his homeland.

In this work the mezzo-soprano sings extracts from Jacques' letters to his French relatives, written in French, while the bass sings extracts from those written to his younger siblings in Australia. While these are mostly in English, here too Jacques lapses into French, at which points the two voices sing together. The extracts are arranged chronologically, sketching out a trajectory from initial patriotic enthusiasm, through disillusionment and trauma, to moments of despair. The music draws on two sources: the French national anthem (La Marseillaise), and a popular World War I song, Australia Will Be There. Both are used mostly in heavily disguised form, coming to the surface only rarely.

Work Details

Year: 2015

Instrumentation: Mezzo-soprano, bass, viola, percussion, piano.

Duration: 18 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Commission note: Commissioned by Diana Blom.. Commissioned with assistance from the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program

First performance: by Halcyon at Halcyon: War Letters (Ku-Ring-Gai Town Hall) on 7 Nov 2015


Performances of this work

10 Nov 2015: at War Letters - schools performance (Ku-Ring-Gai Town Hall). Featuring Halcyon.

7 Nov 2015: at Halcyon: War Letters (Ku-Ring-Gai Town Hall). Featuring Halcyon.

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