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White Birds Fly Over the Valley of the Somme : Lament for Cello & Piano (from 'The Glass Soldier')

by Nigel Westlake (2018)

Work Overview

Taken from the 3rd movement of the orchestral Suite "The Glass Soldier" (Commissioned by Don Farrands in memory of his grandfather N. H. Ferguson), this duo for cello and piano is a slow lament representing the aftermath of the battle of Villers-Bretonneux in Northern France (April 17-24,1918) in which Nelson, a stretcher bearer was embroiled.

The image of white birds juxtaposed over a desolate landscape devastated beyond recognition is a metaphor for hope, the title inspired by a scene descriptive from Hannie Rayson's original play "The Glass Soldier". As Nelson surveys the killing fields of the Somme he yearns to be back in the arms of his true love, Madeleine. The sweet sounds of her piano playing inhabit his daydreaming & offer a glimpse of hope amongst the scarred earth & mud-filled trenches.

Work Details

Year: 2018

Instrumentation: Cello, piano.

Duration: 5 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — High register cello

White Birds Fly Over the Valley of the Somme is also featured in "The Diggers Requiem" under the title "Wooden Birds Fly Over the Valley of the Somme"


Performances of this work

14 Nov 2019: at Belonging and Detachment: An Evening of Australian Instrumental Music (Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music - University of Tasmania).

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