This composition is a setting of a poem by the Australian philosopher, poet and musician Melvyn Cann. The first part describes a spiritual journey through suffering to transcendence and peace. The second part describes a state of consciousness where both thought and time cease, and only feeling remains.
‘Beginnings’ was commissioned by Auckland Philharmonia. It was inspired by the birth of Ritchie’s son Tristan. It depicts the slowly mounting tension of the labour, through to the birth itself. There is a gradual growth in the music from small, delicate gestures into wild and pulsating ones towards the end. The child is represented by a ‘little Tristan waltz’ which eventually gets caught up in the musical frenzy. The waltz sequence imposes order on the music, which tends to be fragmentary and changeable. There are some echoes of Bartok and Debussy in this early work, and it presents a good challenge for a professional orchestra.
This set of songs was written in 1987 during my time as lecturer in voice at Otago University.
The title is drawn from the second song of the set.
Herbert’s poetry has always been a delight to me and in these settings I have endeavoured to capture in music his unique and lively reflections on his relationship with God. His words are beautifully wrought and fathom deep waters making a challenge for musical setting. However I think the songs touch something of the intentions of this great metaphysical poet.
This work was written before and after a visit to Colyton, where a cousin of the composer has a farm, and whose daughter was playing ’cello in the orchestra at the time. He intended the work to reflect the rural open spaces that provide welcome relief for a city-dweller.