Fire Burning in Snow
mezzo soprano and ensemble
“The music has an austerity that suits the poems, yet an emotional current runs through the cool yet singable vocal lines that allows the singer to express the feelings behind the sometimes cryptic words. Instruments are interestingly used, as when string harmonics and a mournful oboe suggest the icy locale where the singer’s lover ought to be. Ms. Bray is a composer whom we could be hearing more from.”
New York Times
Instrumentation mezzo soprano, oboe/cor anglais, clarinet in Bb/bass clarinet, violin, & cello
First Performance 18 June 2013, Aldeburgh Festival; Lucy Schaufer and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
Commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group: a BCMG Sound Investment commission supported by individual donors in memory of Jack Phipps
Recording Debut Disc At the Speed of Stillness Download the album from iTunes
26.8.14 Presteigne Festival, Wales; Clare McCaldin mezzo soprano, Chris Hopkins piano
28.10.14 St Martin in the Fields, London; Clare McCaldin mezzo soprano, Chris Hopkins piano
A BCMG Sound Investment commission supported by individual donors in memory of Jack Phipps and dedicated to the poet Nicki Jackowska and the memory of Jonathan Harvey, Fire Burning in Snow sets three poems by Jackowska; Moonshot, Loose Ends, and Occupations, a collection portraying lost love and a search for a way forward from this ‘place’.
Frozen, immersed in his absence, the first movement, Moonshot, craves for closeness, reaching out for the lost love. Peeling away the layers of personality that gave her form, defined her, she dances alone in a light that she hopes will summon him, singing for comfort. In her solitude, in the quiet of this haunting lament- the darkest part of the collection- a deep emptiness is felt. Disturbed, raw emotions that are never fully comprehended, mysteries that persist, provide openings for other journeys.
Delivered from a male perspective, Loose Ends is grounded and present. Emerging from an emotional landscape shaped by painful loss, newly found freedom, promise (a dream) of future happiness, the character feels indestructible until he loses control, falls back to the dense earth with a thud and realisation that his attempts to bury the memories of his lost love are superficial and futile.
A rich presence is felt throughout Occupations. A love dovetailed into hers- internal, whilst still being free; constantly thrown back to recall what has been lost, until eventually, it escapes, (once accepted, perhaps). Ultimately, some form of resolution is found.
A rich palette and threaded sensory references allow one to see, hear, smell, and feel the poems- they are virtually tangible, leaping off the page with a clear and colourful voice.