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The North Wind was a Woman/Dhyana

Thursday 18th August, 20.40

Conductor: Christopher Austin
Soprano: Sadhbh Dennedy
with guest artist Avi Avital on mandolin

The North Wind was a Woman
Music David Bruce,
Words: David Bruce & Alasdair Middleton

The North Wind was a Woman – EU Premiere
Commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Center – world premiere by Dawn Upshaw, Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Center, Alice Tully Hall, Sept 23rd, 2009

Music: Marcus Barcham-Stevens
Words: translations by Herbert Giles

Dhyana – CHROMA commission, world premiere
This new work is based on 5 medieval (8th-11thC) Chinese texts, in an old English translation, taking the idea from Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde setting of translations of Chinese poetry after Hans Bethge’s Die Chinesieche Floete. Mahler sets poems by the 8th century Chinese poet Li Bai (or alternatively called Li Po), and one of my five poems is also by Li Bai. Whereas Mahler’s piece is more about earthly subjects, my piece, though also embracing nature and descriptions of nature (similar to the last song in the Mahler – The Farewell), is more spiritual.

The title Dhyana refers to a state of Buddhist meditation, although the work is not specifically Buddhist (the last poem by Chi Po from the 8th or 9th century has more of a Christian implication). The inner world could be the essence of most spiritual experiences at the heart of many religions. There are simple, harmonious, beautiful descriptions of nature too.
I took the initial idea from writing an hommage to Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde in the sense of going to the root source of medieval Chinese poetry, and then inspired by the Buddhist/Neo-Confucian/nature poetry, expanded the piece into its own, making it more timeless and universal. Marcus Barcham-Stevens, April 2011

CHROMA has been Associate Ensemble for Tête à Tête since 2006, and has been involved in developing new works through each annual edition of Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival. Founded in 1997, the ensemble is most closely associated with contemporary music, with a diverse participation programme and collaborations involving different art forms. It has close links with many British composers, performing companies and conservatoires through various premières and collaborations. More information at

CHROMA gratefully acknowledges support for this project from the PRS for Music Foundation, the RVW Trust and the Holst Foundation.