The Barred Owl for two pianos by Charlotte Bray.

This work was composed in 2013 and first performed on 31 July 2014 at West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge, UK, by Rose Last and May Kershaw.

Commissioned by the Suzuki Cambridge Young Musicians. With thanks to the MacDowell Colony where the work was created.

Programme Notes

18 August 2013:

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; but then, hearing birds cries frantically in protest at her presence, I walk towards the commotion; three metres or less in front of me, there she is, sat silently, 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 return to her, but as I approached closer for a photo flew off to a nearby higher branch above the dirt track, still perfectly in view, not afraid or affected by my presence — always in total control.

The first movement of The Barred Owl explores the owl’s mystical character — her grace, power, and overriding stillness. The second holds more focus and intent, with adrenaline pumping.

- Charlotte Bray

Duration: 6 minutes