The inspiration for Night Songs came from a few corners. I had not written any vocal music for several years and was delighted to have the opportunity to do so once again. Growing up in New Zealand, I was somewhat familiar with many New Zealand poets and have set a number of texts for voice, so it was a great opportunity to get to know some Australian poetry. At the time I was asked to write this piece I was newly pregnant with my second child. In the course of my creative and maternal gestation and after the birth of my little girl, the themes of night, motherhood and, very importantly, Tasmanian poetry gradually wove together.
Gwen Harwood’s poem Notturno is dedicated to the violinist Jan Sedivka, a Tasmanian musical icon and revered colleague and friend. Mrs Harwood also lived in Tasmania for many years. Esther Ottaway is a young Hobart poet whose husband Kelly happens to be another musical colleague and friend. The second text, Night Feeds, from her award-winning collection Blood Universe, evokes the quiet darkness when the world sleeps while a mother cares for her baby and time seems to stand still. Finally, although Henry Lawson is synonymous with Australian poetry, as a newcomer to his writing I was fascinated and amused to read about his rag-tag life. On the night train is his last poem, here in its original form rather than its better-known later version.
Commissioned by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and Symphony Services Australia for the TSO's 60th anniversary season in 2008
Text by Gwen Harwood, Esther Ottaway, Henry Lawson
15 Nov 2008: Song of Destiny