By the Waters of Babylon
By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept … As for our harps, we hanged them up upon the trees that are therein. For they that led us away captive required of us then a song, saying “Sing us one of the songs of Sion” “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”
Many composers have set this heart-wrenching text, telling of the exile of a people from their homeland. JS Bach sets the poem as a solemn hymn, Palestrina as a multi-voiced motet.
The text is no less potent in the 21st century than it was in 500 BCE.
The Australian Chamber Choir has commissioned Australian composers, Luke Hutton and Tom Henry to write new works for this program. The disruption of the ancient harmony between Australia’s First Peoples and their country, followed by centuries of immigration from every part of the globe, makes dislocation and yearning for lost homeland an abiding theme in Australian art and literature. Yet within our culture, a synthesis of many traditions, Australian artists find fresh and distinctive ways to ‘sing the Lord’s song’. Download full program notes here.
“… an unforgettable concert … more” Markus Karas, Cantor/Director of Music – Diaconate of Bonn, 20.07.17
“The voices of the 19 young singers are trained at the highest level. A lightning-crisp intonation rings through a naturally blended sound. The unaccompanied works of the evening maintained perfect tune … as the choir wended its way with the greatest security through music of many periods and styles … more” Echo, Darmstadt, 20.07.17
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1685–1750):
An Wasserflüssen Babylon (Chorale BWV 267, Chorale Prelude for Organ BWV 653)
Fürchte dich nicht (BWV 228)
Ich lasse dich nicht (BWV Anh.159)
HERBERT HOWELLS (1892–1983): Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis composed for St Paul’s London (1951)
JACOB HANDL, also known as GALLUS (1550–91): Pater noster
GIOVANNI PIERLUIGI DA PALESTRINA: Super flumina Babylonis
LUKE HUTTON (born in Melbourne, Australia 1989)
Fern Hill (2017) after the poem, Fern Hill (1945) by Dylan Thomas (1914–53).
Written in 1945, Fern Hill begins as an evocation of Dylan Thomas’s childhood visits to his aunt’s farm, which expands into dreamlike metaphors and a lament for lost youth
TOM HENRY (born in Melbourne, Australia 1971)
Uncertain Journeys (2017)
1. I am come into deep waters
2. My God, my God…(waiting for life to arrive)
3. Feeling freedom
The texts for this work are written by people who have applied for for asylum in Australia and must endure a long wait before their cases are assessed.
FRANK MARTIN (1890–1974)
Full Fathom Five
Text from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Scene II, Act I)
Three 16th Century English motets
RICHARD DERING (1580–1630): Factum est silentium
WILLIAM BYRD (1542/3–1623): Ave verum corpus
ORLANDO GIBBONS (1583–1625): Almighty and everlasting God
This program has been performed in:
AUSTRALIA: Preston, Middle Park, Melbourne, Geelong, Macedon
ITALY: Rome, Florence
AUSTRIA: Vienna, Klagenfurt, Villach, Stams
GERMANY: Bonn, Darmstadt, Hamburg, Leipzig, Nördlingen, Tübingen, Wangen