Five Lullabies

year: 1989    instrumentation: SATB choir or vocal ensemble   
published: Wai-te-ata Music Press
score sample: click

Risky, perhaps, to create a set of ‘Lullabies’, if one wants to avoid sending an audience to sleep! But a lullaby might not always be soporific, if we consider the state of mind of the singer, who may be singing as much for themselves, projecting onto the child their own anxieties, frustrations, aspirations, hopes.

The musical language tries to suggest a folk-like simplicity; the invented languages likewise hinting at distant regions, no. I African perhaps, II Turkish, III Latinate, IV Pacific. In the final movement, the word ‘Calumbaya’ is borrowed from the name of a Filipino friend’s barrio, a name so euphonious as to be irresistible.

Invariably, mature age is a time for surrendering to seductive nostalgia and sentimentality, the very things one had previously studiously avoided. But the challenge is to find true beauty in the banal, and mystery in common cliché, something I attempted in my several settings of old songs, remembering my dear, departed paternal grandmother, and also my hale and hearty 100 year-old father, whose musical tastes extend little further than old style tunes like these.

Five Lullabies was composed in 1989 as a tribute to Peter Godfrey on his retirement, and was first performed in its entirety by the Tudor Consort. Musically, they were partly inspired by my discovery of the wonderful vocal polyphonies of some of China’s minority cultures, sometimes characterised by the so-called ‘dissonant’ interval of a 2nd being held to resonate as a consonant.

Jack Body discusses Five Lullabies with Jim Svejda, below.

click here for Five Lullabies at SOUNZ