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The Consolation of Rain by DAVID BRUCE


We all take consolation from different things, and without wanting to be overly morbid, I would like to think that after I die, my loved ones could take consolation from the sense that I was quite literally all around them, in the air, water and earth as part of the natural cycle of things. There are numerous poems on this theme, including the famous "Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep" by Mary Elizabeth Frye in which, rather than being dead, the deceased speaks directly to us: "I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glints on snow, I am the sunlight on ripened grain, I am the gentle autumn rain. " Clearly I am not alone in my way of thinking there is something very moving about the idea that you can reconnect with someone you've lost simply by looking at nature.

Perhaps an inevitable topic for an Englishman, the focus in this piece is rain. Taking Debussy's method of portraying the sea in La Mer as something of a model, the piece is primarily an abstract musical construction, but one that constantly and variously evokes different aural images of rain, whether it be rippling, glistening, dripping, rumbling, swooshing or showering; gathering pace or subsiding; distantly echoing or vigorously present. But throughout, the impression is of rain not as dark and depressing, but as something positive, consoling, life-affirming and renewing - the 'gentle autumn rain' mentioned in the Frye poem.

I suspect - as is often the case in my work this focus emerged out of the instrumentation particularly the combination of harp and marimba which has a lot of potential 'water' in its sound. The focus on quietness in this piece may also relate to the fact that I knew I was writing for the wonderful oboist Nicholas Daniel. Just as I was beginning to write the piece I went to watch Nick perform, and one of the things that struck me in particular was his breathtakingly beautiful pianissimos. I've always felt that one of the tell-tale signs of a great performer is someone who knows how to use the very quietest tones their instruments can produce, to captivate a room and make everyone collectively hold their breath at the delicacy and fragility of the sound. These are often the moments when music really does offer a sense of transcendence.

Alongside Nick it has been a delight to know I'm writing for the fantastic players of Camerata Pacifica, and to know I can throw anything at them; and in particular to reconnect with Bridget Kibbey who has fearlessly tackled many of my fiendishly difficult harp parts in the past without batting an eye.

The Consolation of Rain is in five short movements, each in a way, a kind of 'song without words'. It lasts about 20 minutes in total.

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for Oboe, Cello, Harp, Percussion

Percussion: 5 Oct Marimba, Glockenspiel Timpani (28" or 29" range from F2 to C3) Tam Tam with drumkit bass drum pedal (the Tam Tam needs to be played with the pedal)

Duration c.20mins
Composed Sept 2015-Jan 2016
First performance Camerata Pacifica, April 2016
Commissioned by Commissioned for Camerata Pacifica by Bob Klein & Lynne Cantlay

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Past Performances


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