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Three Songs

for voice and piano

Year:  1947   ·  Duration:  8m

Year:  1947
Duration:  8m

Composer:   Douglas Lilburn

Films, Audio & Samples

Sample Score

Sample: Page 1 'Clear Sky'

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"The three poems here set have always seemed to me to share some ambient and most poignant awareness of our experience on these islands, whether of small remote sounds in summer, the desolation of a crippled gull, or the brilliance of summer harvesting, or whatever might make us feel at home" -Douglas Lilburn

Lilburn found an underlying experiential similarity in these poems by Ruth Dallas (Nos. 1 and 2) and Basil Dowling (No. 3), which he drew the fore in his settings. The keyboard introduction of "Clear Sky" captures the play of expansiveness (in the broad registral reach) and homeliness (the repeated motifs) that characterises the set as a whole. In "The Picnic" the spacious quality of the keyboard, evoking the circling swallows in their easy flight, is tinged by a haunting iambic limp. Lilburn's word painting here is poignant and ironic: vocal melismas depict the crumpled, curled foot of the one-footed gull, and our (short) memories of his sorry sight. "Summer Afternoon" sums up the ambivalent mood of the set. The declamatory voice (also found in "The Picnic") gradually becomes more lyrical, and a sense of progress is conveyed through the rising vocal line (as in "Clear Sky"). Yet there is a lingering sadness. The keyboard's recurrent fluttering seventh and off-beat falling fourth recalls the desolation and troubling limp of "The Picnic".
(Note by Nancy November).

Contents note

  1. Clear Sky
  2. The Picnic
  3. Summer Afternoon

Text note

Texts by 1. Ruth Dallas; 2. Ruth Dallas; 3. Basil Dowling

Performance history

16 Jan 2004: Performed by Jose Aparicio (tenor), Paul Cibis (piano).

02 Mar 2008: Performed by Judy Bellingham (soprano) and Terence Dennis (piano) in Wanganui

22 May 2008: Performed by Judy Bellingham (soprano) and Terence Dennis (piano) at Marama Hall, University of Otago, Dunedin

30 Jun 2011: Performed by Hadleigh Adams and Catherine Norton (piano) at St Lawrence Jewry in London as part of the 2011 City of London Festival

07 Jul 2013: Performed by Clare Pierard and Florence Chalamet (piano) at the Château de Puygiron as part of the 2013 Puygiron Art Festival, in Puygiron, France

Performed by Tracey Chadwell (soprano) and Pamela Lidiard (piano)

Performed by Judy Bellingham (soprano) and Terence Dennis (piano) in Libya

Performed by Gina Sanders and Kay Shacklock

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