• John McCabe
  • Wind, Sand, and Stars (1992)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools (IAPS)

The chorus part is ideally sung by members of the orchestra.

  • 22224321timp.3percpfstr
  • SA
  • soprano [=treble]
  • 14 min

Programme Note

John McCabe- Wind Sand and Stars (1991/2)

The title of this work derives from the English translation of the book Terre des hommes by the French aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Éxupery (1900-43). It is a memoir of various experiences as a pilot, and it is above all the sense of space, sky, clouds, night- flying, and, far below, the desert, that inspired this piece, coupled with the energy of flight.

Wind, Sand and Stars was commissioned by the Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools for their Centenary concert at the Barbican Centre, London, in 1992, and was written during the winter of 1991/2- the first performance was given by the IAPS Orchestra conducted by John Lubbock in July 1992. I deliberately chose to write a single piece, almost a symphonic nocturne, rather than a suite of different movements, presenting myself (and probably the performers, too) with more of a challenge, and I took the opportunity of adding to the instrumental forces a choral element. This is an Interlude in which, against the background of a small group of solo orchestral instruments, those members of the orchestra not playing sing a wordless chorus, the material of which reappears towards the end of the piece on a single, solo voice. (Needless to say, this can also be sung by a chorus of non-professional musicians, or a female choir, if preferred.)

As one who loves flying, I am constantly struck by the extreme slowness at which planes seem to proceed most of the time, despite their great speed- so the energy of the central quick section is framed by extended slower sections, in which the change of harmonies reflects the imperceptible progress of flight. There are several important motifs: the opening, circling woodwind figure, a fanfare-like motif first heard on the trumpets, and a simple, two-part theme also first heard on trumpets, are the most important of these, and they are all inter-related. The tunes which emerge during the central quick section are also variations of the same material, notably a woodwind tune with a Scotch snap, and a broader, lyrical string tune leading to a brass chorale version of the same theme at the work's climax. The music concludes with recollections of earlier sections, a return to the nocturnal atmosphere which has really dominated the work, and a final, clouded quiet chord.

The music is dedicated "to the children of the Incorporated Association of Preparatory School's Orchestra past, present and future", and lasts about 16 minutes.

Programme Note © Copyright 2001 by John McCabe