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Work

In the beginning : SATB choir with chamber ensemble

by Stephen Holgate (1984)

Work Overview

In the Beginning is a single-movement work for choir, baritone, organ and percussion. It is a confessional Christian work exploring three key ideas - God and mankind in themselves; the mystery of the Incarnation (God becoming man); and a doxology or praise. The texts for the work include selections from the Old and New Testaments, Christian prayers the Gloria, Nicene Creed and the Te Deum and a prayer from St Augustine.

Significantly, together with Holgate's other concert works from this period, In the Beginning explores the integration and juxtaposition of conventionally based musical language ('macro' level of melody and harmony) with contemporary textural ideas and techniques, which throughout this work weave in and out of each other. Holgate's composing within the 'micro' or interior level of sound itself - reflects his interest in musical 'timbre' or colour and the influence of composer mentor Barry Conyngham, and specifically the so-called 'spectral' or 'sound synthesis' techniques of innovative new-generation French composers Tristan Murail and Gerard Grisey, who were leaders at the 1980 Darmstadt International Summerschool of New Music in Germany, attended by Holgate. Broadly speaking, complex acoustic phenomena such as the overtone spectra, modulation, filters, formants etc (which contribute to the differences in naturally occurring sounds) are orchestrated or synthesized using acoustic instruments to create a dynamic web of evolving textures and sonic clusters, frequently fused together by the precise use of percussion and multiphonics (special complex sounds) produced on woodwind.

Work Details

Year: 1984

Instrumentation: Baritone, SATB choir, organ, percussion (gong, bell tree, vibraphone, cymbal, bass drum, tam-tam, tubular bells, crotales).

Duration: 11 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Competent amateur choir, others professional.

Performances of this work

4 Oct 84: All Saints Church, St Kilda, VIC. Featuring Astra Choir, Robert Smallwood, John Beaverstock, Peter Cox, James Harper.

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