This piece was commissioned by the Hope and Smart families of Blenheim, New Zealand, in memory of their children, Olivia and Ben, who disappeared without trace on New Years Day in 1998.
The music features a recurring five bar theme. The bass of this theme, a simple descending line, underpins the entire structure. A second, rather nostalgic theme soon appears, initially on the cor anglais. This is developed and gradually taken up by all the woodwind and brass while harp and plucked strings continue to play the first theme.
Olivia Hope was a keen student musician. When her family approached me regarding this commission they gave me the score of the last music she wrote, Solitude. This is an attractive piece in the form of a rock ballad, a setting of the haunting poem by A. R. D. Fairburn. These are the concluding lines.
Now recollection brings again the distant hour that the tide flowed,
The word that might have flowered then as an epic or an episode.
After consulting with the family I incorporated a few bars of Olivia’s melody into Chaconne. It forms the basis of the third theme of this piece, heard initially played on high solo violin.
A central, more lively section gives way to the return of the main themes and the piece ends reflectively as it began.
There are two recordings here. The first is of the premiere by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under Kenneth Young from a video recorded by TV3. I am grateful to the orchestra and TV3 for their permission to use it.
The second recording is of the US premiere by the Lamont Symphony Orchestra. This took place on February 7, 2006 in the Newman Center at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado directed by Jonathan Andrew Govias. An effective and warmly received performance.
Orlando, Florida, 2009
“…a serene piece of great beauty.”
Instrumentation: Small Orchestra
1 Picc. 1 Fl. 2 Ob. (#2/C.A.) 2 BbCl. 2 Bsn. // 2 FHn. 2 CTpt. // Timp. 2 Perc. 1 Hp. // Strings
NZSO, Kenneth Young (Premiere)
LSO, Jonathan Andrew Govias
Vaia’ata Print (self-published)