A King's Manifesto : for soprano, percussion and violoncello
by Nicholas Vines (2014)
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A King's Manifesto was written for Sydney's new-music group Halcyon on the occasion of their 15th birthday. It is all about praising the courage and tenacity of Halcyon's founders for having not only survived, but flourished, both as performers and progenitors of new musical expression.
The work is a setting of a poem, somewhat late 18th century in tone and pretence, which draws anachronistically upon images of pre-industrial growth, fertility and abundance. Unlike its literary ancestors, however, it delights in the taming and tilling of nature, rather than revelling in its unfettered beauties. The music itself mirrors this (my) take on Halcyon's legacy. While lacking the appropriate stylistic markers, it nevertheless voices something of the Romantic hero(ine)'s struggle, though here as a civiliser of, not an apologist for natural inhospitality. Rich, wild gestures are held in check by harmonic irrigation methodically constructed; the joy here is the wonder of planning, of engineering, of building something out of nothing.
Instrumentation: Soprano, cello, percussion.
Duration: 6 min.
Difficulty: Advanced — Solid tertiary level to professional
Dedication note: Dedicated to Halcyon
Commission note: Commissioned by Halcyon.
This song is one of a collection of chamber works under the title Kingfisher, Songs for Halcyon. The songs were gifts from the composers to celebrate 15 years of music-making by Australia’s leading ensemble for vocal chamber music.
A fabled bird identified with the kingfisher, the halcyon had the power to calm the wind and the waves while it nested on the sea during the winter solstice. The composers took their inspiration from the word 'halcyon', each displaying their own unique voice in writing for singers and instruments. The 21 songs represent the cream of vocal composition in Australia and offer a lasting tribute to the relationships formed between Halcyon and the composers who have written for them over the years.
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