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os anthos chortou (As the Flower of the Grass)

for choir

Composer:   Clare Maclean

Films, Audio & Samples

Sample Audio

Sample: 0'00" - 1'00"

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os anthos chortou (As the Flower of the Grass) is a setting of Sappho's fragment 31. Each verse of the poem is sung twice, first by a 'Greek chorus' and then by the speaker of the poem, with the distinction between the two becoming increasingly blurred. The material of the chorus mostly follows the formal structure and words stress of the verse, using a C minor based tonality, while that of the protagonist is more fluid in form, and is based on an octatonic scale.

By the end of the poem, the speaker has become 'alex than dry grass' (in one translation) and seems 'little short of dead.' This equation of love and death is expressed musically by a Dowlandesque fragment which is incorporated into the music, like a reversal of the classical allusions in Elizabethan poetry. The title is derived from the image of grass, and uses a biblical phrase which refers to human glory as being both beautiful and transient. Os anthos chortou was commissioned by the St Louis Chamber Chorus, directed by Philip Barnes.

Commissioned note

Commissioned by the St Louis Chamber Chorus

Performance history

Performed by the Sydney Chamber Choir with director Paul Stanhope at St Scholastica's covent, in Sydney