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application/pdf,78k Score (78k) Pages 1-3© Ross Harris and Vincent O'Sullivan

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Programme Note

This group of songs relates to Alexander Aitken, the brilliant mathematician and gifted amateur musician, who managed to smuggle a violin through both Gallipoli and France, playing it in the trenches. He enlisted with the Otago Infantry as part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

The first draws on the breakdowns he periodically suffered during the rest of his life, the images taken from his own record of these episodes. The second refers to his managing to play his violin during the major campaigns he took part in. The third details the reality of the trenches, which those at home were scarcely aware of, while the fourth refers to the music which paradoxically he was able to take to the front lines. ‘Pretty much verbatim’, as the title suggests, is taken from Aitken’s own tribute to a close Dunedin friend who held an exploding grenade close against himself, to save his mates. The sixth song concerns the surreal experience which apparently was not uncommon, of thinking one saw a soldier who already was dead, and places this experience back in the Otago Aitken returned to after the War. The Song for Winifred’ declares, as he did, his debt to his wife, a fellow Dunedin student, and the return to ‘normal’ life.

Text Note:
Text by Vincent O'Sullivan.
For Richard Greager.

Performance History

World Premiere for Notes from the Front (Songs for Corporal Aitken) 28 Aug 2014 Performed by Richard Greagor (tenor), Bruce Greenfield (piano), and Martin Risley (violin) at Old St Paul’s Cathedral, in Wellington.
19 Aug 2015 Performed by Richard Greager, Martin Riseley and Jian Liu at the Adam Concert Room in Wellington
19 Aug 2015 Performed by Richard Greager (baritone), Martin Riseley (violin) and Jian Liu (piano) at the Adam Concert Room, Wellington.


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