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Child of the Sun (Programme Notes)

Programme note

Child of the Sun (Programme Notes)

Commentary or analysis


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KM100NZ presents NZ music

mezzo soprano: Tessa Romano
piano: Sherry Grant

Jump to work:

Anthony Ritchie: Exquisite Spirit

  1. To L.H.B.
  2. The Sea-Child
  3. Loneliness

Exquisite Spirit comprises three songs for mezzo-soprano and piano, based on poems by famous New Zealand writer, Katherine Mansfield. The songs are To L.H.B. (1894-1915), The Sea-Child, and Loneliness, and are symbolic evocations of Mansfield’s own life experiences. The first song is about her brother who died in World War I, and the longing to be reunited. Some of the tragic darkness in Mansfield’s life is captured in the music of these songs.

—> Click here to learn more about Anthony Ritchie

Warwick Braithwaite: Fragment

Fragment is a short lyrical piece to promote the development of delicate balance between the singing melodic line and its harmonic accompaniment.

—> Click here to learn more about Warwick Braithwaite

Janet Jennings: Jangling Memory

The text is the 32nd poem in Katherine Mansfield’s 35-poem collection, The Earth Child, sent to a London publisher in 1910. She was 22 years old. The collection was not published, but this poem, Jangling Memory, appeared in a 1911 edition of the literary magazine Rhythm, edited at the time by John Middleton Murry. The challenge for the singer is to convey the layers of mood and meaning expressed in the text. The “old tie” symbolizes the bond between the narrator and her companion and a lost time of youthful innocence. The narrator’s mocking laughter is superficially cheerful but the memory is "jangling"; she laughs but her tears are close to the surface throughout the song. The tears should be almost, but not quite, hidden. Address the audience directly; act the part - you could even use a tie as a prop. Telling the story and acting the part are more important than exact pitches and rhythms.

—> Click here to learn more about Janet Jennings

Nigel Keay: Voices of the Air

Voices of the Air is a setting of the poem by Katherine Mansfield for mezzo-soprano and piano, and was composed in July 2023 for Sherry Grant and Tessa Romano. Between each stanza is a micro-interlude for the piano alone, thus as a consequence the song has a somewhat undulating form, where the music of the verses tends toward the minimal, and that of the piano generates more activity, in effect a wave motion in reference to the "sea and wind" of the text. Concurrently with working on Voices of the Air I was preparing a work by Arnold Trowell for an upcoming performance, a work that was almost certainly composed in Katherine Mansfield's lifetime, and we know that Mansfield would've been familiar with Trowell's music, so it seemed appropriate, while setting the poem, to be immersed in this particular sound-world.

Voices of the Air was written in 1916. Katherine Mansfield's brother, Leslie Heron Beauchamp died 6 October 1915 aged 21 years old and is buried at Ploegsteert Wood Military Cemetery, Belgium.

—> Click here to learn more about Nigel Keay

Michael Norris: In the Rangitaiki Valley

In November 1907, Kathleen Beauchamp (later Katherine Mansfield)—then aged 19—joined friends on a lengthy camping trip through the heartland of the North Island, travelling by caravan from Hastings through to Rotorua, along what is now State Highway 5. At the Waipunga Falls near the settlement of Rangitaiki (sometimes misspelled ‘Rangitaki’) on the border of Hawke’s Bay and Bay of Plenty, she experienced one of those typical shimmering summer days, where the boisterous winds placed the world into constant motion around her. A year or two later, after she had left New Zealand never to return, she would look back on this day and capture her impressions in the unabashedly romantic and joyous poem ‘In the Rangitaki Valley’.

—> Click here to learn more about Michael Norris

Douglas Lilburn: From the Port Hills

From the Port Hills is the 4th bagatelle from Douglas Lilburn's Five Bagatelles, which were composed in Christchurch in 1942, and were given their first performance by Noel Newson in December of that year.

—> Click here to learn more about Douglas Lilburn

Andrew Perkins: Three Katherine Mansfield Songs

  1. Very Early Spring
  2. The Gulf
  3. The Earth-child in the Grass

Andrew has chosen three poems by Katherine Mansfield that make use of the imagery of nature. These works offer readers, and now listeners, insight into the complex nature of her relationships with men and women. Although each song is based on a different scalar formation, the scales share common characteristics. Similar melodic shapes and intervals also help to unify the three songs. In Very Early Spring, Mansfield personifies the sun as a male figure, and the wind as female, interacting but remaining separate. The song is full of contrasting musical gestures – some strong and cool, and others delicate and warm. In The Gulf, the lovers are separated by a gulf, but no mention is made of the identity of the two. The idea of bridging the gulf is usually viewed as a metaphor for Mansfield’s constant searching for fulfilment. The gulf is represented in the music through the extreme registers in the piano and vocal part, and between voice and piano. An ever-shifting ostinato creates an air of tension in the music throughout the song. In The Earth-child in the Grass, the lovers are represented by the counterpoint between the voice and piano part. The sensuous use of metaphor in the poetry, such as the green blades of grass, the move from coldness to warmth, and from weeping to laughter is likewise reflected in the music. I have added another impersonal witness to this natural scene in the form of a bird whose song can be heard in the piano part.

—> Click here to learn more about Andrew Perkins

Thomas Goss: Across the Red Sky

Thomas Goss' setting of “Across the Red Sky” manifests the cries of birds, the cool uncertainty of the evening sky, and the gentle flapping of bird’s wings. The vocal line looks back across a century of art song in its character, shaping the melodic curve along the arc of Mansfield’s reflective disquiet and wonder at the beauty of nature.

—> Click here to learn more about Thomas Goss

Yvette Audain: Malade

Malade was suggested to me by Sherry Grant and after a quick read I accepted. It may be short in length but to me it provided a perfectly potted little vehicle for a juxtaposition of wit and pathos. At times it is a cheeky, nonchalant tango; other times it casts a melancholic glance over its shoulder at the man in the adjacent room...

—> Click here to learn more about Yvette Audain

Peter Adams: The Secret

'The Secret’ is one of the poems in Katherine Mansfield’s collection of poems written from 1911-1913. It speaks of a ‘rainbow shell’ to be found in ‘the profoundest ocean’ and this colourful shell has always been there silently singing whether the water is stormy or quiet. Peter Adams’s music has gentle ripples of upward semiquavers in the piano in a simple setting where the piano symbolizes the water and the voice ‘sings’. The rippling semiquaver figure is turned upside down in a section in 7/8 time where the music gains a little momentum before ending as it began in simle timeless modality.

—> Click here to learn more about Peter Adams

Kenneth Young: The World is Beautiful Tonight

The contrast of wonder at the beauty of the night and all who glow in it, alongside the poet’s self-despair, appealed to me very much in this short verse. One of Mansfield’s most poignant.

—> Click here to learn more about Kenneth Young

Ben Fernandez: Covering Wings

In song form the tune is a jazz ballad with two verses followed by a bridge and then a final verse.

​The tune tries to convey the feeling of searching for love , for acceptance, for understanding. Each section has a constantly changing key centre that signifies dealing with change and trying to find one's way as we journey through life. However in the final verse we return back to the original key and it is like a 'homecoming' in some ways. The tune has a very playful nature and implores us to find the inner child in each of us.'

—> Click here to learn more about Ben Fernandez

Alfred Hill: Prelude 'Through a Veil of Mist'

—> Click here to learn more about Alfred Hill

David Hamilton: Three Children's Songs of Katherine Mansfield

  1. This is Just a Little Song
  2. The Lonesome Child
  3. A Day in Bed

These three settings were written for a centennial concert of songs setting the poetry of Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923). Mansfield wrote short stories, poetry, letters, journals and reviews, and is regarded as a central figure in British modernism.Three story collections were published while she was alive and two posthumously. She spent much of her life in England and Europe, eventually succumbing to tuberculosis. These children’s poems, from the 1907 collection “Children’s Book of Verse”, are early examples of her writing and not as widely known as her later poetry and short stories.They have a charm all of their own, while following the conventions of similar writers of the period such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Hans Christian Andersen, andWalter de la Mare. The three poems set here all have a bittersweet tinge - from the child suffering illness, to the lonely child desperately wanting playmates, and the child confined to bed with a cold wondering if she’s been abandoned. “Three Children’s Songs of Katherine Mansfield” was written for pianist Sherry Grant and mezzo-soprano Tessa Romano.

—> Click here to learn more about David Hamilton

Mary Brett: Nocturne

—> Click here to learn more about Mary Brett

Ross Carey: Two Poems of Katherine Mansfield

  1. Sea Song
  2. There is a Solemn Wind Tonight

The two poems of Katherine Mansfield’s I’ve chosen both resonate for me on a very intimate level. There is a Solemn Wind Tonight speaks of that elemental force of nature that every born and bred Wellingtonian feels in their bones, and that perhaps continues to have a mysterious kind of hold upon our psyches. Sea Song likewise is an ode to memory, those bittersweet echoes of a more carefree existence that Mansfield seems to acknowledge begrudgingly: ‘Memory dwells in my faraway home/She has nothing to do with me’. ‘Sea Song’ concludes with an extended passage for piano solo during which our poet/protagonist attempts to reconcile her alienated present with an idealised yet ultimately out of reach past. Two Poems of Katherine Mansfield were composed in Xinzheng, China in May & June 2023 and are dedicated to their first interpreters, Tessa Romano and Sherry Grant, and to John Sharpley, like K.M. a fellow traveller across cultures and a chronicler of imaginative power.

—> Click here to learn more about Ross Carey