For high voice, clarinet in B flat and piano, the five songs are settings of New Zealand poems that evoke poignant memories of past experiences. They are of beyond diploma difficulty for the three performers.
In the isolated settlement of Ahipara in the far north of the North Island of New Zealand a tiny white church sits on a hillock looking out to a range of low brooding hills. In the cemetery below, an angel stands on a pedestal at the head of a grave. One day in 1992 renowned New Zealand photographer Robin Morrison came to the church and captured the essence of the angel’s vigil in a memorable and famous image.
In late 1997 the composer Chris Blake travelled to Ahipara and stook in the same place and experiences the same image. The outcome was a short work for string orchestra which captures the hope and desolation of the angel and the memory of the soul over which she stands guard. The work was created for conductor Andrew Sewell and is based, at his suggestion, on a passage from an earlier work We All Fall Down for obliggato cello and orchestra.
This work is one of a series of four, making up The Northland Panels. They were written and premiered as separate works.
Imagine the harmonics associated with each musical sound as its “aura”. This piece brings these auras into fuller consciousness: at the start the orchestra’s staccato chord is immediately decorated by the solo piano’s flourish on its harmonic series. These auras permeate the work. The piece is in a single movement – its various sections related rhythmically. It was first performed by Barbara King and the Victoria University Orchestra under Peter Walls in August 1995.
Of this work for flute, clarinet in B flat, violin and piano, the press said, “Norman writes intelligently for such a non-blending ensemble and it was a well-crafted divertissement. The players [Zelanian Ensemble] obviously like it.” (Christchurch Star 28-2-96)