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When I was asked to conduct Pakuranga Choral Society in their first concert for 2005, the question of suitable repertoire was discussed with the choir management. We decided that the concert need not be a major oratorio, and I suggested a programme of Bach (Cantata No. 140) and Haydn (Nelson Mass) with an offer to write something new to complement these works. I was also keen to use one of my ex-students, Morag Atchison, as the soprano soloist in the concert. My work therefore became a piece which would feature her voice, with not too heavy demands on the choir.
The texts I finally selected were all on the theme of night, and form a cycle of pieces. The first text, Night Countdown by Peggy Dunstan, describes some of the many sights and sounds of the night, but contrasting that with '...only one moon and one me'. The second text is a lullaby: Rocking my Baby by Wendy Orr. The third text, The Middle of the Night by Karla Kuskin, describes someone, probably a child, lying awake and listening to the sounds of the night. There are strange noises, and the lights go out one by one. The prospect of nightmares is not far away, so you hide under your pillow and shut your eyes. Then you sing to yourself a confidence-boosting song about how you love the middle of the night and all its noises and weird animals - this part of the poem is sung by the choir. The fourth piece sees me returning to the poetry of American Jack Prelutsky and The Dance of the Thirteen Skeletons. Here we do have a nightmare - thirteen skeletons dancing around a snowy graveyard! Here, the choir sings the chorus which describes the noises the skeletons make, and the accompaniment makes passing references to the well-known Danse Macabre by Saint Saens. The final piece is appropriately titled Last Song, by James Guthrie. This short poem is a brief 'good night' wish.
Commissioned by the Pakuranga Choral Society
- Night Countdown
- Rocking My Baby
- The Middle of the Night
- Dance of the Thirteen Skeletons
- Last Song
Texts by Peggy Dunstan; Wendy Orr; Karla Kuskin; Jack Prelutsky; and James Guthrie
22 May 2005: Premiered by Pakuranga Choral Society with Morag Aitchison (soprano) conducted by David Hamilton at All Saints' Church, Howick, Auckland