On a Night
for Alto Solo and Unaccompanied Choir
Performed by the Cape Town Youth Choir in Carnegie Hall (2017)
The idea of a wide ‘harmonic canvas’ placed within a choral environment sparked the creation of On a Night. The piece was written for alto solo and unaccompanied choir, with the intention to display a variety of harmonic colours in conjunction with a number of non-musical subtexts. The work’s structure was inspired by the slow, thick orchestral settings of diatonic harmony, often exhibited in works by Debussy, Ravel and (early) Scriabin. In contrast to this, On a Night was also inspired by the reflective mood of the traditional African folksong “Ukuthula” (Zulu word meaning “peace”, but also “hushed”). The text for this piece is adapted from the final stanza of the poem Meditation Denying Everything, written by Katie Peterson (2013). The poem illustrates the idea of longing for love and affection, whilst in a time of turbulence in any relationship. Upon reflection of the poet herself; “even if you renounce the possibility of love– you end up looking for it.”
A voice in the next room goes to sleep.
Sleep moves in the branches of the oak
become a rootless mass
unsung by skeleton or name or height.
My friend who says
she does not believe in Paradise
believes in rest: I believe that,
or more likely I like to think of her,
the way she held my name in her small mouth,
as she held her own name. I like to think of anyone
who on a night like this
would reach towards my ribcage
and trace it delicately and walk away.
Excerpt: Meditations Denying Everything (Peterson, 2013)
Programme note by the composer
Dedication, Awards & Acknowledgements
On a Night was commissioned by the Cape Town Youth Choir and won the Stephens Grové Choral Composition Competition in 2017.
Unaccompanied choir (SS*-aAA-TT-bBB)
Year(s) of Composition:2017
5 Jun 2017