Ballet with choreography by Edouard Lock. Music, after Purcell and Gluck, for four players:saxophone (soprano, alto, tenor or baritone), viola, cello, piano

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

Note : Gavin's notes

Gavin's notes

This new work (as yet untitled) with Edouard Lock involves a reworking of music from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, just as our previous collaboration, Amjad, took the Romantic ballet - Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty as its source.  As with Amjad, Edouard selected many extracts from the two operas for me to recompose. Many of these were very short - sometimes only forty seconds or so - and had to be extended into longer compositions, unlike with Amjad where most pieces were about the same length as music in the original Tchaikovsky ballets. In addition, unlike with Tchaikovsky, a great deal of this music would be unfamiliar to the majority of ballet audiences and so I tended to stay closer to the originals. I wrote over 30 pieces and almost all of them appear in the ballet. The process of writing this music was immensely pleasurable since, as with Tchaikovsky, I learned a great deal more about the source music and its compositional ethos and craft. Some may be surprised at how much of the music for the ballet is actually very fast!!


Concerto for tuned percussion quintet and chamber orchestra
Duration c. 25’
First performance: Les Percussions Claviers de Lyon and L’Ensemble (Orchestre de Basse-Normandie) conductor Dominique Debart
Theatre Hérouv ille Saint-Clair, May 28th 2004

nos. 1, 8 and 9 first perf. Anna Maria Friman, John Potter, GB Ensemble
Great Hall Dartington, Devon April 26
Complete performance Glenn Gould Studio, CBC Toronto
Duration 30’
March 6th 2007

Note : Nine Irish Madrigals (Adapted from 3rd book of Madrigals)

Nine Irish Madrigals (Adapted from 3rd book of Madrigals)

(for soprano, tenor, viola, bass clarinet and double  bass)

Hire Only

1. Laura being dead, Petrarch finds trouble in all the things of the earth

2. Laura is ever present to him

3. He recalls his visions of her

4. He ceases to speak of her graces and her virtues which are no more

5. He considers the reasons for his verses

6. The fine time of the year increases Petrarch's sorrow

7. The sight of Laura's house reminds him of the great happiness he has lost.

8. He sends his rhymes to the tomb of Laura to pray her to call him to her (tenor solo)

9. Only he who mourns her and Heaven that possesses her knew her while she lived (tenor solo)

Note : Text of Nine Irish Madrigals

Text of Nine Irish Madrigals

1. Laura being dead, Petrarch finds trouble in all the things of the earth

2. Laura is ever present to him 

3. He recalls his visions of her

4. He ceases to speak of her graces and her virtues which are no more

5. He considers the reasons for his verses

6. The fine time of the year increases Petrarch's sorrow

7. The sight of Laura's house reminds him of the great happiness he has lost

8. He sends his rhymes to the tomb of Laura to pray her to call him to her

9. Only he who mourns her and heaven that possesses her knew her while she lived


Like the Eight Irish Madrigals these Nine Irish Madrigals, also for soprano and tenor, but with a different accompaniment, come from my Third Book of Madrigals - which is for three voices and lute.

These all set sonnets by Petrarch in the remarkable Irish prose translations by John Millington Synge. I came across Synge's Petrarch poems in the University of Victoria library, part of a remarkable Synge collection. They were edited by one of Canada's greatest poets Robin Skelton, who died in 1997 and to whose memory these madrigals are dedicated.

Although Synge first became interested in Petrarch when he visited Italy in 1896 it was not until early 1907, after he had met the American poetess Agnes Tobin and read her translations, that he began to work on his own versions. Part of his intention was to translate love poetry into English but they also served as an exercise in writing prose poetry of the kind he could use in his last play Deirdre of the Sorrows, which he wrote in parallel with the Petrarch translations. Both the play and the translations were incomplete at the time of his death in March 1909.

Petrarch's sonnets are traditionally divided into two collections: in vita di Madonna Laura and in morte di Madonna Laura, and Synge's settings are from the second group. During the time that he was writing them he became aware that he did not have long to live and the opening lines of the first poem show this: "Life is flying from me, not stopping an hour".

Only eight translations from Petrarch appeared in the edition of Synge's Poems and Translations published two weeks after his death and each was given a title in imitation of Petrarch. When four more were added in the Collected Works in 1910 more were included and four of these had titles in a different hand than Synge's. Robin Skelton added titles to five more in his 1961 edition of Synge's translations.

I am grateful to Robin Skelton's family for allowing me to include these titles.

(Gavin Bryars)


1. Laura being dead, Petrarch finds trouble in all the things of the earth

Life is flying from me, not stopping an hour, and Death is making great strides following my track.  The days about me and the days passed over me, are bringing me desolation, and the days to come will be the same surely.

All things that I am bearing in mind, and all things I am dread of, are keeping me in troubles, in this way one time, in that way another time, so that if I wasn't taking pity on my own self it's long ago I'd have given up my life.

If my dark heart has any sweet thing it is turned away from me, and then farther off I see the great winds where I must be sailing.  I see my good luck far away in the harbour, but my steersman is tired out, and the masts and the ropes on them are broken, and the beautiful lights where I would be always looking are quenched.


2. Laura is ever present to him

If the birds are making lamentation, or the green banks are moved by a little wind of summer, or you can hear the waters making a stir by the shores that are green and flowery.

That's where I do be stretched out thinking of love, writing my songs, and herself that Heaven shows me though hidden in the earth I set my eyes on, and hear the way that she feels my sighs and makes an answer to me.

'Alas,' I hear her say, 'why are you using yourself up before the time is come, and pouring out a stream of tears so sad and doleful?

'You'd do right to be glad rather, for in dying I won days that have no ending, and when you saw me shutting up my eyes I was opening them on the light that is eternal.'


3. He recalls his visions of her

How many times, running away from all people and from myself if I was able, I go out to my little nook, with my two eyes crying tears on my breast and on the grass under me, and breaking the air with the great sighs I do be giving.

How many times, and I heavy with sorrow, I have stretched out in shady places and woods, seeking always in my thoughts for herself that death has taken from me, and calling out to her one time and again that she might come.  Then in some form of a high goddess I see her rising up out of the clearest pool of the Sorga, my sweet river, and putting herself to sit upon the bank.

Or other days I have seen her on the fresh grass and she picking flowers like a living lady, yet showing me in her look she has a pity for myself.


4. He ceases to speak of her graces and her virtues which are no more

The eyes that I would be talking of so warmly, and the arms, and the hands, and the feet, and the face, that are after calling me away from myself and making me a lonesome man among all people.

The hair that was of shining gold, and brightness of the smile that was the like of an angel's surely, and was making a paradise of the earth, are turned to a little dust that knows nothing at all.

And yet I myself am living; it is for this I am making a complaint, to be left without the light I had such a great love for, in good fortune and bad, and this will be the end of my songs of love, for the vein where I had cleverness is dried up, and everything I have is turned to complaint only.


5. He considers the reasons for his verses

If I had thought that the voice of my grief would have a value I would have made a greater number surely of my first sorrow and in a finer manner: but she who made me speak them out and who stood in the summit of my thoughts is dead at this time, and I am not able to make these rough verses sweet or clear.

And in surety those times all I was wishing was to ease my sad heart in any way I was able and not to gain an honour for myself, and it was weep I was seeking and not the honour men might win of it, and now it is the one pleasure I am seeking that she would call to me and I silent and tired out.


6. The fine time of the year increases Petrarch's sorrow

The south wind is coming back, bringing the fine season, and the flowers, and the grass, her sweet family, along with her. The swallow and the nightingale are making a stir, and the spring is turning white and red in every place.

            There is a cheerful look on the meadows, and peace in the sky, and the sun is well pleased, I'm thinking, looking downward, and the air and the waters and the earth herself are full of love, and every beast is turning back looking for its mate.

            And what a coming to me is great sighing and trouble, which herself is drawing out of my deep heart, herself that has taken the key of it up to Heaven.

            And it is this way I am, that the singing birds, and the flowers of the earth, and the sweet ladies, with the grace and comeliness, are the like of a desert to me, and wild beasts astray in it.


7. The sight of Laura's house reminds him of the great happiness he has lost

Os this nest in which my Phoenix put on her feathers of gold and purple, my Phoenix that did hold me under her wing and she drawing out sweet words and sighs from me? Oh, root of my sweet misery, where is that beautiful face, where light would be shining out, the face that did keep my heart like a flame burning? She was without a match upon the earth, I hear them say, and now she is happy in the Heavens.

            And she has left me after her dejected and lonesome, turning back all times to the place I do be making much of for her sake only, and I seeing the night on the little hills where she took her last flight up into the Heavens, and where one time her eyes would make sunshine and it night itself.


8. He sends his rhymes to the tomb of Laura to pray her to call him to her

Let you go down, sorrowful rhymes, to the hard rock is covering my dear treasure, and then let you call out till herself that is in the heavens will make answer, though her dead body is lying in a shady place.

            Let you say to her that it is tired out I am with being alive, with steering in bad seas, but I am going after her step by step, gathering up what she let fall behind her.

            It is of her only I do be thinking, and she living and dead, and now I have made her with my songs so that the whole world may know her, and give her the love that is her due.

            May it please her to be ready for my own passage that is getting near: may she be there to meet me, herself in the Heavens, that she may call me, and draw me after her.


9. Only he who mourns her and Heaven that possesses her knew her while she lived

Ah, Death, it is you that have left the world cold and shady, with no sun over it. It's you have left Love without eyes or arms to him, you've left liveliness stripped, and beauty without a shape to her, and all courtesy in chains, and honesty thrown down into a hole. I am making lamentation alone, though it isn't myself only has a cause to be crying out; since you, Death, have crushed the first seed of goodness in the whole world, and with it gone what place will we find a second?

            The air and the earth and the seas would have a good right to be crying out - and they pitying the race of men that is left without herself, like a meadow without flowers, or a ring robbed of jewellery.

            The world didn't know her the time she was in it, but I myself knew her - and I left now to be weeping in this place; and the Heavens knew her, the Heavens that are giving an ear this day to my crying out.

First performance Sentieri Selvaggi, Milan June 2006
Duration c. 15'
flute, clarinet, vibraphone, piano, violin, cello

(8 Shakespeare sonnets)
soprano, tenor, speaking voice, bass clarinet/ clarinet; electric/ acoustic guitar; percussion (vibes, cimbalom, untuned percussion), piano, 2 violas, cello, double bass
Duration 61’
First performance The Courtyard Theatre Stratford on Avon, February 24
Anna Maria Friman, John Potter, Gavin Friday
Opera North Ensemble, dir. James Holmes

Note : Structure of Nothing like the Sun

Structure of Nothing like the Sun

I A Sonnet 60 (spoken)

I B Sonnet 60 (soprano and tenor)

II A Sonnet 123 (spoken)

II B Sonnet 123 (tenor solo)

III A Sonnet 128 (spoken)

III B Sonnet 128 (soprano solo) followed by postlude

IV A Sonnet 94 (spoken)

IV B Sonnet 94 (soprano and tenor)

V A Sonnet 102 (spoken)

V B Sonnet 102 (soprano solo)

VI A Sonnet 146 (spoken)

VI B Sonnet 146 (soprano and tenor) followed by postlude

VII A Sonnet 55 (spoken)

VII B Sonnet 55 (tenor solo)

VIII A Sonnet 64 (spoken)

VIII B Sonnet 64 (soprano and tenor) followed by epilogue

Note : Text of Nothing like the Sun

Text of Nothing like the Sun

Sonnet 60

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

So do our minutes hasten to their end;

Each changing place with that which goes before,

In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

Nativity, once in the main of light,

Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd,

Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight,

And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.

Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth

And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,

Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,

And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:

And yet to times in hope, my verse shall stand

Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand. 


Sonnet 123

No! Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change

Thy pyramids built up with newer might

To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;

They are but dressings of a former sight.

Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire

What thou dost foist upon us that is old,

And rather make them born to our desire

Than think that we before have heard them told.

Thy registers and thee I both defy,

Not wond'ring at the present or the past;

For thy records and thee and what we see doth lie,

Made more or less by thy continual haste.

This I do vow and this shall ever be:

I will be true, despite thy scythe and thee.


Sonnet 128


How oft when thou, my music, music play'st,

Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds

With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway'st

The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,

Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap,

To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,

Whilst my poor lips which should that harvest reap,

At the wood's boldness by thee blushing stand!

To be so tickled, they would change their state

And situation with those dancing chips,

O'er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,

Making dead wood more bless'd than living lips.

Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,

Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.


Sonnet 94

They that have pow'r to hurt, and will do none,

That do not do the thing they most do show,

Who moving others are themselves as stone,

Unmoved, cold, and to temptations slow,

They rightly do inherit heaven's graces

And husband nature's riches from expense.

They are the lords and owners of their faces;

Others but stewards of their excellence.

The summer flow'r is to the summer sweet,

Though to itself it only live and die.

But if that flow'r with base infection meet,

The basest weed outbraves his dignity.

For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;

Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.


Sonnet 102

My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming;

I love not less, though less the show appear.

That love is merchandised whose rich esteeming

The owner's tongue doth publish everywhere.

Our love was new, and then but in the spring,

When I was wont to greet it with my lays,

As Philomel in summer's front doth sing,

And stops his pipe in growth of riper days.

Not that the summer is less pleasant now

Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,

But that wild music burthens every bough,

And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.

Therefore, like her, I sometime hold my tongue,

Because I would not dull you with my song.


Sonnet 146

Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,

These rebel powers that thee array,

Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,

Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?

Why so large cost, having so short a lease,

Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?

Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,

Eat up thy charge? Is this thy body's end?

Then soul, live thou upon thy servant's loss,

And let that pine to aggravate thy store;

Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;

Within be fed, without be rich no more:

So shall thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,

And Death once dead, there's no more dying then.

Sonnet 55

Not marble nor the gilded monuments

Of princes shall outlive this pow'rful rhyme,

But you shall shine more bright in these contents

Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.

When wasteful war shall statues overturn,

And broils root out the work of masonry,

Nor Mars his sword, nor war's quick fire, shall burn

The living record of your memory.

'Gainst death and all oblivious enmity

Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room

Even in the eyes of all posterrity

That wear this world out to the ending doom.

So till the judgment that yourself arise,

You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.


Sonnet 64

When I have seen by Time's fell hand defac'd

The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;

When sometime lofty towers I see down-raz'd,

And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;

When I have seen the hungry ocean gain

Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,

And the firm soil win of the watery main,

Increasing store with loss, and loss with store;

When I have seen such interchange of state,

Or state itself confounded to decay;

Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate

That Time will come and take my love away.

This thought is as a death which cannot choose

But weep to have that which it fears to lose.