The celebration of Carl Vine’s 70th birthday this year continues on 19 May, when the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra perform his Choral Symphony¸ conducted by Andrew Wailes. The 26-minute work tells the story of Creation using the myths of ancient Babylonia. Scored for large orchestra, SATB chorus, and organ, it follows in the tradition of grand choral-orchestral music of Beethoven and Vaughan Williams.

It is cast in four sections which proceed without a break. Enuma Elish is a creation myth describing the creation of the world from primeval chaos. Although generally described as ‘Sumerian’ or ‘Babylonian’ and possibly originating before 2000 BC, this version of the myth is taken from a cuneiform tablet in Semitic Akkadian, 1300-1250 BC. The remaining three texts are Eis Gên, Eis Selênên, and Eis Hêlion – hymns to the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun. These are taken from the Homeric Hymns (circa 400 BC), written in the centuries following Homer’s death as introductions to public readings of his great epics.

The four tracts combine to form a simple pantheon of the human condition: an account of creation followed by our relationship to the prime deities of the cosmos. Each hymn is preceded by an orchestral prelude. Vine says of the piece,

I wanted this work to revel in the power of human community. There should be no soloists, and the text should relate to our basic need for religion without being overtly religious. To focus on this ‘inner’ humanity, I selected four hymns from religions long-dead, in languages that have not been spoken for thousands of years. Although there are only a handful of scholars in the world who could plumb the depth of both these languages, the sequence of phonemes, the rhythm and intent of the sounds, still resonate with our primal need to create order from chaos.

The symphony premiered in 1996 at Perth Concert Hall with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and Collegium Choir conducted by the composer. It received its US premiere in 2019 at the Grant Park Music Festival from Carlos Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus. It was recorded for ABC Classics in 2000 by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Sydney Philharmonia Motet Choir conducted by Edo de Waart, reissued in 2005 alongside Vine’s complete symphonies to that date.

On 24 May Karin Schaupp and Camerata give the premiere of a new version of Endless for guitar and string orchestra in Brisbane. The 16 ½-minute piece, cast in one movement, is an arrangement of the work premiered in February 2023 by Schaupp and the Flinders Quartet, debuting at the City Recital Hall, Sydney, with a subsequent Australian tour presented by Musica Viva.

Vine writes of Endless

This work celebrates the life of Jennifer Bates, a professional architect, project manager and dedicated environmentalist whose life was tragically cut short by a rogue motorist. Jen and her husband travelled widely, working for a year in Bhutan as international volunteers for the Australian government. There Jen became inspired by Buddhist symbolism and especially the "endless knot" - the emblem of this score - signifying the interconnectedness of all things.

This composition evinces the positivity and commitment to community contribution that Jen displayed throughout her life. At its heart is a reflective elegy, followed by a celebratory dance inspired by Jen's much-loved salsa. Endless was commissioned by her mother, Kathryn Bennett, as a living legacy for a precious life that ended too soon.