The Barred Owl
Instrumentation two pianos
First Performance 31 July 2014, West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge, UK; Rose Last and May Kershaw
Commissioned by the Cambridge Suzuki Young Musicians
The stillness is incredible; a Barred Owl sleeps in the tree. She wakes occasionally when she hears me, checking out the disturbance before returning to her rest. I watch her preen her feather coat, stretch out her powerful talons, and I name her Beatrice.
I didn’t hear her leave the branch; it was before 5.30pm. But then, hearing birds cries frantically in protest of her presence, I walk towards the commotion; three meters in front of me, or less, there she is, sat silently and gracefully on a branch at eye level with me. She had seen me long ago, of course. Staring one another in the eye, I was completely mesmerised and having lost my breath, I stumble backwards through the trees to the studio to reach for my camera. She let me come back to her, but as I approached closer for a photo she flies off to a nearby higher branch above the dirt track, still perfectly in sight, not afraid or affected by my presence, always in total control.
The first movement of the work explores this mystical character- her grace, power, and overriding stillness. The second holds more focus and intent, adrenaline pumping.