The Carmina Gadelica, known in Gaelic as Ortha nan Gaidheal, is a six-volume collection of orally-transmitted prayers, poems, blessings and other material, collected by the folklorist Alexander Carmichael in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in the second half of the nineteenth century. Carmichael subsequently translated this material, and edited the first two volumes. The death dirge An Tuiream Bais was published in the third volume, edited by Alexander’s grandson, James Carmichael Watson. I have set the first, fourth, fifth and sixth verses in the original Gaelic language.
The text of this work comes from the 40-part motet of the same name by Alessandro Striggio (c1540-1592). His work was the likely inspiration for the better-known 40-part motet of Thomas Tallis “Spem in alium”. It is believed that Striggio wrote the text himself. Striggio wrote both sacred and secular music, and all his surviving music is vocal (although often with instrumental doublings clearly indicated).
“Ecce beatam lucem” is a hymn of praise to the sun and more generally to all of creation, and by analogy to the power of God shown through his creation.
This piece was written for Choralation (Westlake Girls’ and Westlake Boys’ High Schools) and conductor Rowan Johnston who had requested a ‘fireworks’ piece – something short, bold and dramatic.
Fanfare for Orchestra was commissioned as part of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s Composer-in-Residence programme to open a special concert to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. This short work for large orchestra follows an A-B-A structure with the archetypal brass fanfare is framed by the “bustling crowd” analogy of the other orchestral sections with much jazz-like syncopation.
This piece was written at short notice in response to request for “…something lively, rhythmic and easy to learn”, for the Aurora Festival held in Christchurch at Easter 2006. The festival organisers, having searched for something appropriate by a New Zealand composer, invited me to write something suitable to fit the occasion.
Festival Gloria sets the opening lines of Gloria section of the Latin Mass. Throughout, the work is dominated by a ten-in-bar time signature, with an insistent and rhythmic piano accompaniment. The music is strongly tonal and ends emphatically where it began: in B flat major!
Festival Gloria subsequently became the starting point for my Missa semplice written later in 2006, and this SSA version of the movement was made in early 2007.
Commissioned for the centenary celebrations of the University of Otago, New Zealand, in 1969, this work is built in five sections arranged as an arch. The first section consists of four ‘fanfares’ – the first fanfare is for six trumpets characterised by crescendo-diminuendo effects and long sustained notes which rise steadily through a series of semitonal steps to a climax; the second fanfare is for woodwind and percussion, the third is an extended version of the first, and the final fanfare modifies the second. This section leads directly into an agile, toccata-like allegro based on material from the trumpet fanfares. The third, central section is a long lento based on material from the woodwind fanfares. Here, biting dissonance and angular melody is replaced by gentle melodic lines and an ever-present backdrop of soft string chords. The fourth section returns to the character and ideas of the second leading to the work’s major climax which subsides into the original fanfares with which the work opened. Now, however, the music is turned back to front so that the gradual intensification of the opening becomes a process of gradual relaxation.
The text for this work is a short poem by Lucille Clifton (1936-) suggesting an intense religious experience and part of the traditional Latin ‘Magnificat’. The choir is accompanied by pre-recorded sounds which are mostly bell-like sounds, some deep and some very high. Holy Night was written for Opus to sing at the 2000 Secondary Schools Choral Festival.