Songs for the Shadowland : for soprano, wind quartet and piano
by Paul Stanhope (1999)
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Library shelf no. CD 2089 [Available for loan]
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Songs for the shadowland : for soprano, wind quartet and piano / Paul Stanhope ; text by Oodgeroo Noonuccal.
Library shelf no. 783.66547/STA 2 [Available for loan]
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In Songs for the Shadowland I have set three mourning poems by indigenous Australian poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal: Tree Grave, Song and Dawn Wail for the Dead. These mourning poems are both deeply moving and also full of other resonances to do with the poet's Aboriginality. The poems give us an insight into the extraordinary importance placed by Aboriginal cultures on ancestry and respect for the dead. The allusions to a funeral ceremony in Tree Grave is a reminder of the profound cultural expression inherent in traditional indigenous mortuary rites.
In all three texts the poet manages to express with remarkable subtlety and understatement of emotion the devastation at the loss of loved ones, suggesting also the deep hurt caused by the onslaught of European colonisation. Despite the sombre quality of the deeply felt word images, the poet finds moments of optimism which seem triumphant against the backdrop of sadness. The poet's restraint of language and use of simple forms makes these statements all the more powerful.
A wailing horn interlude between the 2nd and 3rd songs functions
as pond of reflection and musical commentary. It also plants
seeds for musical ideas that follow in the third song. In this
horn solo, natural harmonics and weeping glissandi act as a kind
of ritual wailing which suggest the subject of the final poem.
Although the echo of the wailing horn reminds us of past sorrow,
it seems to me that Oodgeroo's own optimism for the "new day
calling" has extra resonance now that, finally, a new Federal
Government has started the healing process through the apology to
the Stolen Generations.
Instrumentation: Soprano, oboe, clarinet in B flat, bassoon, horn in F, piano.
Duration: 15 min.
Contents note: 1. Tree grave -- 2. Song -- Interlude -- 3. Dawn wail for the dead.
Commission note: Commissioned by Queensland Biennial Festival.
First performance: by Southern Cross Soloists — 18 Jul 99. Queensland Art Gallery
Permission to be gained from Jacaranda Wiley Press before performing this work.
The second movement “Song” was added in 2001.
- In the form/style of: Song Cycles
Performances of this work
7 Aug 09: featuring Southern Cross Soloists.
18 Jul 99: Queensland Art Gallery. Featuring Southern Cross Soloists.
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