• Ross Edwards
  • Mountain Chant (2004)
    (Three Sacred Choruses)

  • Wise Music G. Schirmer Australia Pty Ltd (World)

Programme Note

for SATB chorus (8 parts)

I. O Quam Preciosa

II. Mountain Chant

III. Oratio Dominica

On 27 June 1818, the explorer John Oxley became the first European to set eyes on the Warrumbungle mountains in north-eastern New South Wales. His journal reveals the deep impression made by this “most stupendous range of mountains, lifting their blue heads above the horizon”. Surely, the peaks and bluffs reminded him of the spires and tors of his homeland after the “boundless desert” through which he and his party had been travelling for so long.

Fred Watson’s poem Mountain Chant, which provides the text of the central chorus, juxtaposes European and Celtic imagery found in today’s Warrumbungles with the names of Dreaming sites of the indigenous people for whom the mountains were a continuous divine revelation. Vividly and precipitately rhythmical, it is framed by two stark, interior motets: the first a setting in Latin of O quam preciosa by the 12th century Rhineland mystic Hildegard von Bingen, whose startlingly fresh imagery of spiritual regeneration I found irresistible; and to conclude, The Lord’s Prayer, also in Latin: a profound documentation of the universal path to self transformation and enlightenment.

Mountain Chant, composed at a time when Australia seems more than ever in need of spiritual regeneration, was jointly commissioned by two leading Australian choirs: Cantillation & the Melbourne Chorale. It is dedicated to my friend and collaborator, the astronomer Fred Watson, who also provided the text of my choral Fourth Symphony, Star Chant.

The world premiere was given on 25 June 2003 in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne. Jonathan Grieves-Smith conducted the Melbourne Chorale.