My initial thought, when approached about a potential commission to write a piece about the seasons, was whether it might be presumptuous considering its well-known relatives. But having just become a parent and losing my mother in a very short space of time, the idea of the seasons as a grand metaphor for the endless cycle of life made so much sense that I simply had to try.
Sebastian found four beautiful poems, representing each of the seasons that spoke to him, and these provided his inspiration. ‘Spring'
by William Blake really conveys the beauty, joy and liveliness of spring. Its short and clipped phrases have such a strong rhythmic impetus (I keep thinking it is 18th century rap), that I came up with a cheerful gospel-like song. ‘Dusk in June'
is by American poet Sara Teasdale. In a few words she paints such a vivid image of a lush summer evening with sweet sounds, smells and sights. I have tried to capture this with rich harmonic colours in a soothing and gentle lullaby. ‘Autumn Song'
by Dante Gabriel Rossetti evokes a much darker autumn than the golden one usually described. I have tried to convey the poem’s intricate structure, with its ever returning questions, by the use of leitmotifs. ‘Snow Song'
, again by Sara Teasdale, brings the song cycle to a more comforting conclusion with a beautiful description of snowflakes dancing in the air. I wanted to give it a folksong-like quality to reflect the poem’s honest simplicity. Ending on an idea from Spring, we are taken back to the beginning again, starting a new yearly cycle.’ A wonderfully flexible and accessible work for your concert programme
The whole piece is constructed in a way that allows for a flexible ensemble. While the choir stands at its center, the accompaniment can be a single piano or a jazz quartet (piano, drums, acoustic bass, tenor saxophone) or the jazz quartet together with a string orchestra. This provides great opportunities for getting your strings and budding jazz musicians involved in the performance.
Whilst trying to stay clear of “jazzy” stereotypes, Sebastian has incorporated the idea of jazz in the choice of ensemble and in the harmonic language, by creating room for improvisation and by giving the performers some freedom to fill out the parts to their own taste, as would be common in jazz