October, 2013, Suzanne Kompass in the world premiere of Conflict, Sadness, Victory, Resolution for Soprano & Orchestra by Sean O'Boyle a role she reprised for the 2014 Moravian Music Conference in Bethlehem, PA. As a recitalist, Suzanne has appeared in the USA, Canada and Australia. Suzanne is the director of the Moravian College, Song and Stagecraft Ensemble and the Opera Ensemble. She is an Associate Professor of Music for the University of the Sunshine Coast
Composers Note: Conflict, Sadness, Victory & Resolution
The opening line of the Rupert Brooke poem, III The Dead, “Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!”, embraces the romantic notion of war before the horrors of the great conflict of World War I were fully revealed. All over the world, young men scampered to join the “great adventure”. The opening is an awkward martial theme of consecutive minor chords, with bugles blowing their dissonant calls. This frenetic activity is short lived and we reflect the romantic view of war with the text at odds with the music bringing joy and hope. This too is short lived and the call of the bugles thunders back with furious agitation. The orchestra crescendos to fortissimo and is suddenly cut off leaving a l ow chord in the woodwinds. The muted timpani sounds mournful notes and a stately chorale builds from a single trumpet to complete majesty with the Soprano soaring over the orchestra, echoing the final words of the poem - “And Nobleness walks in our ways again; And we have come into our heritage.”
The second movement is marked 'with quiet menace'. Melodies rise from the depths and the harmony takes unexpected twists. A desolate fragment is played on the bassoon and answered on oboe – a boy/man calling for his mother in his time of greatest need. The mood changes and the Soprano sings sweetly of remembrance with swirling chromatic harmony in attendance. The high woodwinds play a mocking parody of the opening of the first movement until the Soprano sings a soft, sighing melody. The strings play a faster paced section with motion created by simultaneous 3/4 and 6/8 patterns and the pitch gliding between the keys of Db & C. The flutes chatter busily away. The Soprano sings of precious friends and “death's dateless night”. The winds come crashing in and remind us once again of the opening of the 1st movement. A single horn note emerges from the action and once again the Soprano transports us to the world of chromaticism. She sings of being able to grieve, whilst low flutes and clarinets scurry restlessly under the surface. The menacing opening returns, with the Soprano giving a voice to the fragments. The orchestra dies away to silence.
Victory begins in an ominous tone. The consecutive minor chords rise and fall, the timpani plays in starts & fits, the violins attempt to penetrate the gloom with notes struck col legno battuto. (Italian for "hit with the wood") and the trumpets play single note bugle calls. The violins take on the challenge of the consecutive minor chords with a busy display of relentless activity. The instruments of the orchestra grudgingly join in to a rousing question. The violas and celli play a soft angular melody with swirling winds as accompaniment. The main theme of a jaunty, yet menacing, marching tune is sounded. The Soprano tells a strange tale of a journey to victory - “Terror or triumph, were content to wait,”. The 2nd movement is quoted, until the orchestra valiantly attempts to put victory on a more triumphant course. A calm interlude follows with the Soprano singing: “Oh, perfect from the ultimate height of living,” The orchestra will not be deterred and we are soon marching to our “supernal” destiny: “Rank upon rank, unbridled, unforgiving, Thundered the black battalions of the Gods.”
The resolution for dark times is the simple, yet glorious event that happens when the sun greets the coast each and every morning. The motion of the sea is ever present with the movement of the tides, wind and waves passed from instrument to instrument. The Soprano melody is set in a lower register and the ebb and flow of the music wishes to swamp her. At the place where the oceans encounter the lands, we marvel at the description - “And purple and scarlet and gold in its splendour - Behold, 'tis that marvel, the birth of a day!”
Conflict, Sadness, Victory, Resolution
The authors of the text all have significant life events near the mystical date of April 25th – ANZAC Day. (ANZAC – Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). This is the date in 1915 where Australian and New Zealand forces entered WWI landing on the Gallipoli peninsula. Rupert Brooke was at Gallipoli, but died 2 days before the landings. William Shakespeare was born around April 26th 1564 and died April 23rd 1616 a mere 299 years before Brookes' untimely death. A.B. "Banjo" Paterson served in WWI and was a returning 'Digger'. (Australian slang for Soldier)
This song cycle is dedicated to my darling wife, Suzanne Kompass and to all the brave men and women who serve and have served.
Sean O'Boyle - 15th October 2013