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The Ring of Words

for choir and orchestra

Year:  2007   ·  Duration:  9m 50s
Instrumentation:  SATB choir; 2222; 4200; timp., 2perc., hp, pno; strings

Year:  2007
Duration:  9m 50s
Instrumentation  SATB choir; 2222; 4200; tim...

David Hamilton

Composer:   David Hamilton


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When Peter Watts announced his retirement as Music Director of Auckland Choral I offered to write a piece especially for his farewell concert in early 2008. The Ring of Words is a celebration of Peter’s 20 years with the choir, and also expresses my personal gratitude for the number of works of mine that he has programmed and premiered.

The work is highly rhythmic throughout, hardly ever slackening in energy. There is a predominance of bright higher pitched sounds – there are no trombones, and the cellos and double basses have the least to do.

In selecting texts I wanted to find words that were closely connected with singing. The first text is Bright is the Ring of Words by Robert Louis Stevenson. I was especially taken with the opening lines with their references to words and singing. In my work I have set only the first verse (the second is more sombre). The second text is the well-known Everyone Sang by Siegfried Sassoon with its joyful opening line 'Everyone suddenly burst out singing...'. The final line of Sassoon’s poem also seems apt for a choir about to embark on a new adventure with a new conductor '...the singing will never be done.'

After setting these two texts the first verse of the Stevenson poem returns, in a different setting, more like a chorale. At this point I scored in a special part for the choir’s management committee Chairman Warwick Mitchell – someone who has a musical talent beyond that of choral singing! The work ends noisily and rhythmically, with the final line of Sassoon’s poem returning. Even without Peter Watts, the singing will never be done!

Dedication note

Dedicated to Peter Watts on the occasion of his retirement as Music Director of Auckland Choral

Contents note

Single movement

Text note

Texts by from Bright is the Ring of Words by Robert Louis Stevenson and Everyone Sang by Seigfried Sassoon

Performance history