Symphony I (Blackshaw)
Subtitle: Leunig's Prayer Book
1. The Blessing of Light
2. Bitter and the Sweet
3. Reflection and Resonance
4. The Creation of Faith
Instrumentation (Varies with movement)
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III-IV
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
B-flat Flugelhorn I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Percussion I-II-III-IV, including:
- Bass Drum
- Conga, High and Low
- Crash Cymbals
- Suspended Cymbal
- Tom-Tom, Medium and Low
None discovered thus far.
Symphony No. 1, Leunig's Prayer Book, was inspired by four prayers written by Australian poet Michael Leunig. Movement titles are derived from each prayer that celebrate the arrival of a new season. Audience members are encouraged to embrace and internalize each prayer as the movement is performed, linking the elegance of Leunig's verse to the musical impressions created by the composer. The prayers are reproduced here exactly as they appear in Leunig's text When I Talk to You and are reproduced with permission of the publisher, Harper Collins (Australia and New Zealand).
1. The Blessing of Light (Summer)
We welcome summer and the glorious blessing of light.
We are rich with light; we are loved by the sun.
Let us empty our hearts into the brilliance. Let us pour
darkness into the glorious, forgiving light. For this loving
abundance let us give thanks and offer our joy.
The burn of Summer is depicted in an energetic opening that is also inspired by the birth of the Sun.
2. Bitter and the Sweet (Autumn)
We give thanks for the harvest of the heart's work.
Seeds of faith planted with faith;
Love nurtured by love;
Courage strengthened by courage.
We give thanks for the fruits of the struggling soul,
The bitter and the sweet;
For that which has grown in adversity
And for that which has flourished in
warmth and grace;
For the radiance of the spirit in autumn
And for that which must now fade and die.
We are blessed and give thanks.
The second movement was originally conceived for string orchestra and brings with it an overtone of bitter victory through the consideration of the sacrifice made by thousands of men and women during the Great War (1914-1918). t is a continuous thought that merges and evolves, bringing traces of melodic material from the opening movement, these being the themes of love and light. The orchestration has been carefully considered and is inspired, for the most part, by Strauss and Mendelssohn. The instrumentation is inspired by Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments and provides the audience with some reprieve from the intensity of a full wind symphony. Punctuated by delicate woodwind moments, the Bitter and the Sweet is as delicate as it is vulnerable.
3. Reflection and Resonance (Winter)
Let us prepare for winter. The sun has turned away from
us and the nest of summer hangs broken in a tree. Life
slips through our fingers and, as darkness gathers, our
hands grow cold. It is time to go inside. It is time for
reflection and resonance. It is time for contemplation.
Let us go inside.
With light now fading and Leunig’s recommendation to “go inside”, this movement strips back the ensemble to the simplicity of a saxophone quartet, flugelhorn trio and percussion. Ensemble members contribute choral overtones, and a startling soprano saxophone solo shatters audience comfort. To ease the pain of personal reflection, a classical guitarist accompanies a fragile vocalist (baritone), transporting the audience to a safer place where truth and beauty live in the heart of the composer. For it is here that the soul is making meaning of the darkness, preparing to return.
4. The Creation of Faith (Spring)
We celebrate spring's returning and the rejuvenation
of the natural world. Let us be moved by this vast and
gentle insistence that goodness shall return, that
warmth and life shall succeed, and help us to
understand our place within this miracle. Let us see
that as a bird builds its nest, bravely, with bits and
pieces, so we must build human faith. It is our simple
duty; it is the highest art; it is our natural and vital
role within the miracle of spring: the creation of faith.
The final movement injects hope into despair, releasing the audience from the heaviness of Winter. In alignment with the prayer, “the returning and the rejuvenation of the natural world” is brought about by ascending, pedalled chords, resonated by mallet percussion and a single pedal note shared throughout the ensemble. From the opening to the beginning of the dance I have aimed to capture the feeling of flying through the air with “gay abandon”. Parts weave in and out around a simple flute melody, underpinned by pulsating, dove-tailed percussion. The dance is the rebuilding of human faith with “bits and pieces” as Spring brings us warmth, wildlife and the return of goodness and faith in humanity.
- Program Note by composer
None discovered thus far.
None discovered thus far.
To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project
- Texas Christian University (Ft. Worth) Symphonic Band (Donald Hale, conductor) - 18 March 2021
- University of Wisconsin-Madison Wind Ensemble (Scott Teeple, conductor) – 12 March 2020
- Sydney (Aus.) Conservatorium of Music Wind Symphony (John P. Lynch, conductor) – 11 July 2019 - WASBE Conference (Buñol, Spain)
- St. Olaf College (Northfield, Minn.) Band (Timothy Mahr, conductor; Aaron Linde, baritone; Austin Krentz, guitar) – 7 April 2019 *North American Premiere Performance*
- Sydney Conservatory of Music (Australia) Wind Symphony (John P. Lynch, conductor) – 29 March 2019 Premiere Performance*
Works for Winds by this Composer
All Wind Works
- Belah Sun Woman (2014)
- The Blessing of Light (2019)
- Earthshine (Flex instrumentation) (2014)
- Into the Sun (2017)
- Letter from Sado (2014)
- Majesty. See: Salon Morisot
- Peace Dancer (2017)
- Salon Morisot (2019)
- Soulström (2010/2019)
- Symphony No. I (2019)
- Terpsichorean Dances (2009)
- 13 Moons (Flex instrumentation) (2017)
- Twist (2013)
- Whirlwind (2006)