I heard the bells on Christmas Day – performance by RMIT Occasional Choral Society

Here’s a lovely performance of my piece “I heard the bells on Christmas Day” by RMIT Occasional Choral Society, Melbourne.

I didn’t even know they’d performed it until recently!

Here’s the text, for those of you unfamiliar with Longfellow’s classic 1864 civil war poem, “Christmas Bells”. I’ve omitted a few verses, for length.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

The piece opens with just women singing (soprano and alto), then tenor join in, then bass for a verse, then a solo tenor verse before the full choir extend to six part harmony for the final verse.

I hope you enjoy the piece. I think they did a great job of it.

Busy working away…

I’ve been pretty busy the last few weeks, working on a few pieces of music that are struggling to reach completion.

Not many composers talk much about the compositional process, and the difficulties that are sometimes involved. So when we hear a piece of music at its completion, we’re never really aware of what went into it, or how much in the way of blood, sweat and tears were bred into its making.

For me, some music comes easy. “Mary Sings A Lullaby” was written in the space of a few hours. “Crescent Moon” appeared in the space of three or four days, when my husband was on business overseas, and I had no-one and nothing to keep me company in the evenings. And “Where Is The Moon?” was also a few hours, coming quickly and with little effort.

But other pieces have been really hard. And at the moment, I’m struggling with an “Ave Maria” whose principal themes arrived quickly, but now seems to sit in a secondary phase of development, not wanting to be finished. I know it will happen, but it seems to be challenging me at every turn.

Then, of course, there are just the everyday businesses of life that slow things down. I have two kids, and they’re demanding. Other interests fill my hours, and I have a farm to run that takes time. We’ve had four groups of overseas visitors come to stay in four months (*waves*), and – while it has been lovely – it does take a fair chunk of your time to show people around our beautiful Taieri and city.

Plus we’ve been renovating. The whole top storey of our home has been redecorated and painted. I’ve been up, fourteen feet in the air, perched on stepladders, covered in eau-de-nil paint, and dabbing at walls on my tiptoes. The house (or the upper part of it!) is looking awesome, but it all took time in which I wasn’t composing.

But now the winter is on its way. Everywhere I look, autumn has settled in with a vengeance, and the nights are definitely feeling colder. Daylight Savings time is over. And soon it will be too cold to do much on the farm besides a little bit of fence-fixing here and there, and just regular checks on our animals.

That’s when the composition will happen in big chunks. Because there is nothing better to do, when the wind is blowing hard outside, than to snuggle up under the heater with my laptop, and fiddle with the lines of a new piece. Or complete something that has been on the backburner for a while.

So yes, things are definitely moving. “Ave Maria” will get out of the door – eventually. I promise. What I have done is sounding incredible. It’s on its way.

I’m looking forward to sharing it with you when it is done.

Moonstruck! major composition release

The next in my intended series of Moon Songs, a work titled Moonstruck!, is now ready for release.

The vocal version is set for soprano solo plus SSAATB plus piano accompaniment. The instrumental version is piano only. The work is just under 4 minutes duration.

The score will be available for download at this website shortly, but for now, have a listen to the instrumental version mp3 demo recording:

[Click for mp3]

Enjoy!