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979-0-57020-041-2 Salvation Creek with Eagle – Score Available at MusicRoom Buy now (£20.00)


In September 1973, I returned to Australia after an absence of 20 years. The shock of home-coming was enormous. The timeless, formative visions of childhood had been pressing with increasing urgency into the music I'd been composing in the preceding 10 years, culminating, earlier in 1973, with the ARIA for EDWARD JOHN EYRE. The sounds, shapes, colours, textures - even smells - of that music could have been distorted by nostalgia. But they weren't. There is no shock like seeing familiar things with fresh eyes. My shock was not only at recognising family, old friends, places, but also at discovering in myself the child and the young boy who was still an integral part of me.

Salvation Creek with Eagle was composed the following year (June 1974) after returning to Durham which was my home at that time. It's essentially a work of integration. Childhood, home-coming, the everyday life of a composer and teacher in a small University city in the North East of England came together in a vision of a scrub-surrounded declivity on the plateau of the Lambert Peninsula in Ku-ringai Chase. Bright sun on the rippling water, baking air, the intermittent calls of Spotted Pardalote, Grey Shrike-Thrush, Whipbird and Fan-Tailed Cuckoo; and overhead, the solitary Wedge-Tailed Eagle, lazily riding the blue sky.

The music is not about these things; they are where the music came from.

The piece opens with an antiphony between suspended cymbals and a great quiet chord played by the whole orchestra. The chord dissolves into a series of long arches of melody which also dissolve, form and re-form. Halfway through the piece, the texture opens out and solo instruments interweave their litanies in the clearing. Their polyphonies grow in density until a solo piano - quoting the end of Charles Ives' Concord Sonata - leads the orchestra into the final melodic arch which returns the music to the stillness of the opening.

The piece was dedicated to my students at Durham, in particular, the University New Music Ensemble and Peter Wiegold, its director, who gave the first performance a week after it was finished.

DL, 1976


18 minutes

Durham University New Music Ensemble cond. Peter Wiegold, 1974

1 Flute, 1 Oboe, 1 B-flat Clarinet, 1 Bassoon, 1 Horn in F, 1 Trumpet in B-flat, 1 Trombone, 1 Percussion, 1 Piano, 1 Orchestral Strings
Composition date


9 May 2008

York Spring Festival, Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York

University Chamber Orchestra