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This symphony was composed for The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra with financial assistance from The University of Otago. It is in one movement, divided into 14 sections, or 'stations', and is to be performed without a break. It is dedicated to those in Christchurch who have suffered in the earthquakes.
This symphony takes as its point of departure a book called The Way of the Cross, which combines images of sculptures by Llew Summers with poems by Bernadette Hall, both of which centre on the Christchurch Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, in New Zealand. Llew Summers' sequence of 14 sculptures entitled The Stations of the Cross were created for the Cathedral in Christchurch in 2000, and outline the final events in the life of Jesus Christ. They caused controversy at the time, with their challenging re-interpretation of the traditional Christian images. Bernadette Hall's 14 poems followed some years later, and were informed by the sculptures. The poems and images of the sculptures were both published in the book The Way of the Cross in 2005. In 2011, the Catholic Cathedral was ruined in the second of the major earthquakes that shook Christchurch, and currently faces possible demolition.
As a response to these events, this symphony includes several musical settings of Hall's poems in a one-movement structure divided into 14 sections, or 'stations'. Not all the poems are set, however: some 'stations' are purely instrumental, forming musical meditations on the texts as well as suggesting other images and moods related to the earthquakes. The trials and suffering of Jesus Christ as depicted in the poems/sculptures become associated with the trials and suffering of a city. There are also personal associations in the music, deriving from the composer's own experiences in the Cathedral, both as a composer and as a member of the Cathedral choir in the late 1970s. Consequently, two quotations feature prominently: first from Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli (in Station 5) and second, from Bach's St John Passion (in Station 12). Therefore, elements of mythology and life experiences are brought together in this work.
There is considerable cross-referencing of musical ideas between 'stations', and some re-cycling of material towards the end, as a sort of summary of themes. For example, the main themes from Station No.4 return and are extended in station No.13, and the quotation from Palestrina (transformed) also reappears at the climax of the work, at the start of Station No. 14.
For professional orchestra
Station 1 - "I am very small, you are very big" - soprano + orchestra
Station 2 - "my terrors" - orchestra
Station 3 - "I am a man who wakes from a dream" - soprano + orchestra
Station 4 - "She weepeth sore in the night" - orchestra
Station 5 - "Ceased from their musick" - orchestra (Based on a Palestrina quotation - from the 'Crucifixus' in his Missa Papae Marcelli)
Station 6 - "Wide eyed, I have looked into the abyss" - orchestra
Station 7 - "My back curves like a whale breaching" - soprano + orchestra
Station 8 - "The women are like a halo around me" - orchestra
Station 9 - "The wood is a hammer" - soprano + orchestra
Station 10 - "Now I am as when I entered the world" - soprano + orchestra
Station 11 - "My arm is a road through suffering and pain" - soprano + orchestra
Station 12 - "Why have you abandoned me?" -orchestra (Based on a J.S.Bach quotation - from the opening chorus of the St John Passion)
Station 13 - "For one split second everything holds its breath" - soprano + orchestra
Station 14 - "Light flickering on the horizon" - soprano + orchestra
Poems by Bernadette Hall
22 Feb 2014: Performed by the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and Jenny Wollerman (soprano), and conducted by Tom Woods at the Wigram Air Force Museum in Christchurch.
Performed by Jenny Wollerman and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Tom Woods.