In this, his 75th birthday year, Peter Sculthorpe has recently completed a major new Requiem for SATB chorus, orchestra and solo didjeridu. It has been jointly commissioned by the Adelaide and Lichfield Festivals, and following its recent Adelaide Festival premiere on 3 March it will soon be given its European premiere at the Lichfield Festival on 12 July in the presence of the composer.
‘… his most substantial, most serious, most thoughtful work to date. Pursuing his long-established desire to recognise indigenous music, Sculthorpe incorporates a somewhat Westernised Aboriginal song - Maranoa Lullaby - includes drumming patterns from various tribal sources and also moves over to make room for the extraordinarily gifted William Barton and his consort of roughly pitch-matched didjeridus… cause not just to celebrate but to rejoice.’
The Advertiser (Elizabeth Silsbury), 5 March 2004
‘It is a monumental, elemental-sounding work that moves with slow, inexorable and gritty deliberation rather like a processional march… it takes a stage further Sculthorpe’s career-long desire to wed Western and Aboriginal musical elements…
Choral more than orchestral, the work above all focuses on the words of the Requiem mass, by means of a clear, strong setting of the Latin text. Simultaneously, Sculthorpe creates an overlay of indigenous Australian cultural references: an Aboriginal lullaby at the work’s midpoint and the use of didjeridu, both in a solo and as an accompaniment to the choir… it integrated the sound of didjeridu and orchestra where attempts by other composers have often failed.’
The Australian (Graham Strahle), 5 March 2004
Requiem lasts some 45 minutes. The solo didjeridu part has been expressly written for William Barton, one of the most astonishing musical talents to have emerged from Australia in many years. Sculthorpe’s score combines elements of Latin plainchant together with space in which Barton is left free to extemporize. In the Adelaide premiere he is joined by the Adelade SO and Singers conducted by Richard Mills and in Lichfield by The CBSO and Ex Cathedra under Jeffrey Skidmore. The Lichfield Festival will also feature performances of Sculthorpe’s String Quartet No 12 (From Ubirr) for didjeridu and string quartet, plus new arrangements of Port Arthur: In Memoriam for trumpet and organ and Night Song.