When composing new classical music, a worthy challenge is creating material that is meaningful not just to oneself, but to the performers. Four of the six movements had written for it an original solo prelude dedicated to the premiere's string players: artists coming from a wide variety of professional backgrounds to bring this composition to life.
Below are five preludes for five of the six movements (the exception being "Smoke") of the Great War Sextet. Each prelude is a solo piece that occurs before the poem's orations. They can be viewed as PDF files by clicking and expanding them to a new tab.
To listen to their synthesized mockups rendered using NotePerformer, click the link which will lead you to its SoundCloud mp3 file.
This prelude is a fantasia on the opening motifs of the Last Post, dedicated to our bassist, Vicente Garcia
This prelude alternates between a stern march and free rubato passages, with intense changes in dynamics and speed. Included are quotations from Canada's second official anthem, "The Maple Leaf Forever." This was composed for Jake Klinkenborg, our cellist.
This prelude is a ballad evoking an artist's soul grasping for the memories of a lover amongst the stars. This is dedicated to Maxime Despax, our violist.
This is a wild perpetuum mobile composition depicting the pent-up excitement of the Canadian horse, a popular and now very rare breed that served with distinction in the war. I also drew inspiration from my wife's horse, a spirited Paso Fino. This is dedicated to one of our violinists, Essie Liu.
Chanson De Geste was composed in 2012 for Marjolaine Lambert, and was premiered at Trinity Wall Street, New York, that same year. It was inspired by a passage in Sir Thomas Malorey's Le Mort D'Artur, where Sir Gawain battles Sir Lancelot over the latter's tryst with Lady Guinevere, the wife of their liege, King Arthur. The battle of champions waged for days, with Sir Gawain's strength waxing and waining with the sunrises and sunsets. It is very appropriate as the prelude for the final movement, "No Man's Land."
As this work now concludes the preludes, the torch will be passed to our new first violinist, the talented Marianne Di Tomaso.
The Ensemble Score
Below is the main score for The Great War Sextet. I will summarize the moods for each:
- In Flanders Fields: matching the text, it begins wistfully with the song of larks, ending resolutely with defiance.
- Soldiery: An incessant sardonic march with breaks of tranquility.
- Love Song: A nocturne in the style of the Late Romantics, evocative of the British pastoral style.
- Canadians: A scherzo evocative of a heart inspired by adventure.
- Smoke: A violent, angular shift in tone. Short and crisp.
- No Man's Land: Stillness met with action, followed by an uncertain stillness.
The score below in PDF format.