Rainchant : for SSA (treble) choir and chamber orchestra
by Paul Stanhope (2000)
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Soon after returning to Australia after living for a time in the United Kingdom, I witnessed a spectacular thunderstorm over Sydney. This display of natural elements seemed so impressive (and such a contrast to London drizzle!) I knew at that moment I should write a piece which painted a musical picture of a Sydney storm.
There are two sources for the texts used here. Firstly, a series of adaptations from haiku by American poet Richard Wright. From over two hundred of these haiku I selected a handful which began to build up a picture of a city which sounded like Sydney, with images of a city on a harbour and nearby houses with red-tile roofs. The other text is a series of words for "rain" or "rainstorm" from different Aboriginal languages in the south-eastern parts of Australia. The use of these texts suggests a layering of history in the painting of this musical tableaux.
The chant itself, sung simply to "ah", represents the soil or the earth or perhaps even the idea of being earthed. The chant is symbolically calling down rain to quench drought and to revitalise and replenish the earth. It also stands for renewal and replenishment on a personal level.
Instrumentation: SSA (treble) choir with soli or semi chorus, percussion (1 player), organ (optional), string orchestra; (pebbles for string players and optional CD of thunder clap (available with performance parts) also required).
Duration: 7 min.
Difficulty: Medium — School/amateur.
First performance: by MLC School (Sydney) — May 01. Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House
Written especially for school and youth performance in both choir and orchestra parts. The piece may, however, benefit from a more experienced percussionist and a professional pianist.
Performances of this work
17 May 01: Concert presented by MLC School, Burwood, Sydney Opera House
May 01: Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House. Featuring MLC School (Sydney).
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