Longing For Equinox

My piece, "Longing For Equinox", is written for a capella girls' choir, (SSAA, with divisi in places). It was inspired by a deep desire for the current cold, isolated, divided state of modern society to dissolve into one of understanding and universal acceptance without discrimination. Two Buddhist quotes were central to my inspiration: "a single candle can light a thousand candles, and the life of that candle is never shortened; in the same way, happiness never decreases because it is shared", and, "as rain falls equally on the just and the unjust, do not burden your heart with judgement, but rain your kindness equally on all."

The piece is roughly in three sections: the first is mainly composed of a solo soprano, until the rest of the choir enter in the last bar. This should be relatively free to give a sense of reflection or introspection. Following this, there is a passage which should have the quality of a prayer or chant, with a sense of increasingly expanding as each phrase unfolds. The final section is dominated once more by the soloist, accompanied by quiet humming. The latter should sound as if it is coming from behind a veil - ethereal and almost intangible. The soloist should not mask the humming, but should sound warmer than in the opening section. A clear silence should be left after each double bar line. The first of these should be shorter than the last - I would like the sound to be allowed to fade completely at the very end of the piece.

The choir should stand in a semi-circle, and no attempt should be made to make the soloist more obviously visible than the others; I wish to give a sense of them being very much part of the choir, and their not being differentiated from the others in any way will, I hope, help to convey this. If working with a dry acoustic, the singers should not be too far from the audience, as they must not sound distant. In a more resonant, they could be a little further away to allow the sound to fill the space.

When Dr Wickham, Director of Music at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, asked me to write a piece for the St Catharine’s Girls’ Choir, I thought for some days about what I could use for libretto. Because I write poetry as well as music, I decided to use my own text. The words combine English and Latin for two reasons: firstly, to illustrate the sense of isolation I wish to convey at the opening, when the soloist is separated from the rest of the choir not only because she is singing alone, about also due to the language in which she is singing. My second reason for using both languages was to show that the fundamental importance of beauty, wonder, love, gentleness, freedom, peace and light in the spiritual sense is as relevant today as it was in ancient times. The text is designed to appeal to followers of a wide range of faiths and spiritual traditions, as well as to non-religious people, since restricting it to one set of beliefs would have contradicted the message of the piece: a wish for light to be equally spread across humanity - something I feel is especially relevant in modern times, where conflict and adversity are rife. Closely related to this, I was inspired by this quote from the historical Buddha: "thousands of candles may be lighted from a single candle and the life of the candle is never shortened. In the same way, happiness never decreases because it is shared."

Longing for Equinox, has been selected as a highly commended entry in the Upper Junior category of the BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers’ Competition 2017. Here are the comments from the judges: ‘We had a large number of entries of a very high standard and your composition really stood out to the judges. The judges were so impressed with your piece and the skill and imagination that you showed for such a young composer. They thought your word-setting worked really well and that your piece was very beautiful. Congratulations!' The judges in this year’s panel were:
Kerry Andrew
Charlotte Bray
Tansy Davies
Hannah Kendall
David Pickard
Gabriel Prokofiev
Fraser Trainer

Audio

Score

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