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The natural church : chamber orchestra

by James Ledger (2016)

natural church


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The natural church : for chamber orchestra / James Ledger.

Library shelf no. 784.3/LED 1 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

The original idea for this was a piece of night music. Specifically, the image of driving along our country roads at night - the canopy of eucalyptus trees forming an archway.

In a moment of pure serendipity, I was reading Shakespeare's Sonnet #73, where an analogy is made between the archway formed overhead by the barren boughs along a tree lined passage and the bare ruins of a church.

The first four lines of the sonnet are as follows:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

I found this imagery of the "boughs which shake against the cold" and "bare ruin'd choirs" to be highly provocative and so the idea of a "natural church" came to mind. Just as a tree loses it leaves and becomes bare in winter, a church left to ruin with its roof shattered leaving only the stone walls and perhaps the thickest of beams.

If you consider the image of a large stretch of trees along a road, and the long repetitive roof structure of a church or cathedral, the analogy becomes even more striking.

The piece itself conveys the idea of a long archway with beams (or boughs) meeting in the middle overhead. The repetition of arches are represented in the ensemble by descending flourishes. Each time they occur they are subtly different from the preceding one. Over time these musical arches deteriorate in some way - like collapsing stone work, or a tree losing its leaves. Against this crumbling musical architecture, the piano chimes out discordant church bells in the distance. These bells now a sorry reflection of their former glory.

Work Details

Year: 2016

Instrumentation: Flute (doubling piccolo), oboe, clarinet in Bb (doubling bass clarinet), bassoon, horn, trumpet in C, trombone, percussion (1 player), piano, strings.

Duration: 13 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Commission note: Commissioned by Four Winds Festival with funds provided by Four Winds Foundation.

First performance: 27 Mar 16. The Sound Shell, Four Winds Festival, Bermagui, NSW

Performances of this work

27 Mar 16: The Sound Shell, Four Winds Festival, Bermagui, NSW

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