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Song of the Yarra : for soprano solo, violin obligato, SATB chorus and chamber ensemble

by Peter Sculthorpe (2008)

Work Overview

Song of the Yarra is in three inter-related parts: 'Morning Star', 'Healing Waters' and 'Rainbow's End'. It follows the passage of time from night to the arrival of the morning star, and from dawn to the fullness of the sun and day itself. This is a metaphor for the plight of Indigenous Australians and their subsequent joy, shared by all Australians, when in 2008 the Federal Government finally apologized for past wrongs.

I had hoped to set Indigenous words from tribes around the river Yarra but, sadly, the languages are now almost completely lost. I decided to write a text myself. The text is chant-like and repetitive, in the way that most Indigenous poetry is, and because much of it is sung by a young girl it has a sense of innocence. It dictated the nature of the work.

While the solo violinist plays bird-calls in several parts of the work, most of the violin obligato mirrors the thoughts and dreams expressed in the text. A liberal use of tuned and untuned percussion introduces and accompanies the vocal music, often underlining its subject-matter. Cellos and double-basses complement the percussion, mostly adding ostinati and long-held pedal notes.

Work Details

Year: 2008

Instrumentation: Soprano voice, violin obligato, cello, 2 contrabass, percussion (4 players), SATB choir.

Duration: 16 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Dedication note: In memory of Clifford Hocking

Commission note: Commissioned by Melbourne Recital Centre with funds provided by Harold Mitchell Foundation.. Written especially for first performance at the opening of the centre in Elisabeth Murdoch Hall on February, 2009, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch’s one-hundredth birthday

First performance: at Song of the Yarra (Elisabeth Murdoch Hall) on 8 Feb 2009

Text by the composer.


Performances of this work

8 Feb 2009: at Song of the Yarra (Elisabeth Murdoch Hall).

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