Sancti spiritus ad sit nobis gratia – the grace of the Holy Spirit be with us.
“MLC girls have long history of performing the music of Ross Edwards, both in Australia and overseas. It is therefore a great joy and honour to have a new work, Prelude to Dance Mantras, composed especially for us.” – Karen Carey
Prelude (to Dance Mantras) was composed especially for this MLC Young Virtuosi concert, exactly twenty years after its companion piece Dance Mantras. Both movements use the same line of Latin text, but are different meditations on it. The trance-like and ethereal Prelude delivers the text like a benediction, floating down from the soprano soloist who is echoed by the choir and underscored by gently pulsing violas and celli.
The origins of Dance Mantras determine its whirling dance-like energy and use of the text as a mantra, a literal translation of which from the original Sanskrit is “instrument of thought”. Edwards writes:
In 1992 I was one of several Australian composers invited by Richard Letts, then Director of the Australian Music Centre, to produce – at hair-raisingly short notice – a one page choral work whose score should be suitable for framing and presentation to a High Achiever in the propagation of Australian music. The presentation was to be made at a ceremony in Sydney which would include a performance of the work.
My High Achiever was the Chrissie Parrott Dance Collective of Perth, and in composing this cyclical maninya (dance/chant) I was aware of its choreographic potential. The Latin text, which translates as “May the grace of the Holy Spirit be with you” seemed appropriate to an auspicious occasion which became progressively more euphoric on account of the abundant free wine. Elliott Gyger directed The Song Company in this first performance of Dance Mantras, and he also played the drum.
Dance Mantras is designed to be flexible and imaginative interpretations of the score are encouraged. The original ensemble of 6 solo voices (SSATBB) may be augmented by simply doubling, or massively swollen, as in the 1996 performances in the Sydney Opera House by an antiphonally divided chorus of 700 children conducted by Simon Kenway. One can imagine a protracted version in a candle-lit church or cathedral producing a hypnotic effect. Or a wedding procession, or a dance: the manifold possibilities await further exploration.