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Three Poems of Janet Frame

for high voice and 12 players

Year:  1972   ·  Duration:  13m
Instrumentation:  flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon/contra-bassoon, horn, trumpet, harp, piano, two percussion

Year:  1972
Duration:  13m
Instrumentation  flute, oboe, clarinet, bass...

Jack Speirs

Composer:   Jack Speirs

Films, Audio & Samples

Jack Speirs: Three Poems of...

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Kenneth Young introduces 'T...

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The work was commissioned in 1970 by the NZ Broadcasting Corporation. The texts are taken from Janet Frame's 1967 verse collection, The Pocket Mirror. The songs all have to do with aspects of death; but it is the second - a setting of the poem , "People are ill, dying," which colours the entire work. This introduces the threat of nuclear warfare, expressed in the recurring image of the mushroom. The two flanking songs - extracts from the long poem "Some Thoughts on Bereavement" - consider death in a more individual context, and conclude that in experiencing the death of others, part of ourselves dies too. The music, which is scored for high voice accompanied by solo winds, percussion, harp and piano, translates the eloquent verbal images into purely musical ones. The result, in the words of one critic, is a "piece of considerable emotional powers'" in which '"the tight, almost compressed construction maintains an intensity of feeling at a high level, nowhere diffused by padding."

Commissioned note

Commissioned by the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation

Dedication note

To the memory of my father

Contents note

1. In loss the trees bear stings...
2. People are ill, dying.
3. Grief becomes spread like arsenic...

Text note

Text by Janet Frame

Performance history

17 Nov 2001: Performed by Pepe Becker (soprano) and Stroma with conductor Hamish McKeich at St Andrew's on The Terrace in Wellington

04 Nov 2002: Performed by Kate Lineham (Stroma) with conductor Hamish McKeich at the Marama Hall, University of Otago, in Dunedin

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