(Text from Dante: La Vita Nuova and Pico della Mirandola: Conclusiones).
Duration: 7’
Dedicated to Erica, Robert and Vita Hewison.
Instrumentation: Solo alto, violin, viola, cello.
First performance: St Mary de Castro, Leicester, 1 April 1989

Note : Incipit Vita Nova (1989)

Incipit Vita Nova (1989)

Incipit Vita Nova is for male alto and string trio and sets those short phrases that appear in Latin rather than Italian in Dante's La Vita Nuova. It was written in February 1989 to celebrate the birth of Vita, the first child of my friends Erica and Robert Hewison. I wrote the piece at the same time as I was writing Cadman Requiem and, like that piece, it represents a personal response to a life. Both were written for the Hilliard Ensemble with whom I had developed a close working relationship. I chose this particular instrumentation because while Erica loves David's voice Robert is very fond of my string quartets. David effectively serves as an additional instrument to the string trio by achieving an imperceptible blend of voice with accompanying instruments at the beginning and at the end. Although I had decided to write the piece long before the birth I did not start the piece until after the baby was born, waiting until I knew whether the baby was a boy or a girl, and wanting to know the baby's name - Vita. I originally looked for all uses of the word "Vita" (life) among Pico della Mirandola's Conclusiones  (I had set Pico for Glorious Hill, my earlier piece for the Hilliard) and eventually added one of these sentences ("Omnis vita est immortalis") as the penultimate line of the text while working on La Vita Nuova ("The New Life") as the main source. The first performance was given by David James at St. Mary de Castro Church in Leicester on 1 April 1989, and shortly afterwards was performed with the first performances of Cadman Requiem in Lyon and Marseille.

Note : Text for Incipit Vita Nova

Text for Incipit Vita Nova

Incipit Vita Nova A new life is beginning

Ecce deus fortior me Behold a God more powerful than I

qui veniens dominabitur mihi. who comes to rule over me

Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra Your source of joy has now appeared

Vide cor tuum Behold your heart

Tempus est ut praetermictantur It is time for false images

simulacra nostra. to be put aside.

Nomina sunt consequentia rerum Names are the consequences of things

Hosanna in excelcis. Hosanna in the highest.

Bella mihi, video, Things beautiful to me, I see

bella parantur. beautiful things are being prepared.

(vita) qui est per omnia secula (a life) which is for all times

benedicta, benedicta. blessed, blessed.

Omnis vita est immortalis. All life is immortal.

Nomina sunt consequentia rerum Names are the consequences of things.

The piece is dedicated to Vita, Erica and Robert Hewison.

(Text: I. Requiem/Kyrie; II. Bede (Latin paraphrase of Caedmon’s Creation Hymn); III. Agnus Dei; IV. Caedmon Creation Hymn; V. In Paradisum.)
Duration 30’
Dedicated to Bill Cadman.
(I) Instrumentation: alto, 2 tenors, bass-baritone, 2 violas, cello (+ optional bass)
First performance: Conservatoire de Lyon, 17 May 1989
(ii) Instrumentation: (4 voices)+ viol consort (2 treble viols, 2 tenors, 1 bass, 1 great bass)
First performance: recording AIR studios November 17th 1997
(live: Westminster Cathedral December 21st 1998)

Note : Cadman Requiem (1989)

Cadman Requiem (1989)

Cadman Requiem was written in memory of my friend and sound engineer Bill Cadman, who was killed in the Lockerbie air crash in December 1988. It is in five sections and sets only two of the traditional requiem texts - "Kyrie" and "Agnus Dei" - with the addition of "In Paradisum" which, although from the Order of Burial, is set by Fauré and others. The other two sections, which come in between the traditional parts, are Bede's paraphrase of Caedmon's Creation-Hymn (in Latin like the three traditional movements) and the original Caedmon poem (in 7th century Northumbrian). The surname "Cadman" is a corruption of "Caedmon", the first English poet who, though he considered himself to lack any poetic skill, discovered the gift of poetic utterance when "a certain person" appeared to him in a dream.

The piece was written in the spring of 1989 for the four voices of the Hilliard Ensemble accompanied, in the original version, by 2 violas and cello, with optional double bass. Another version was made in the autumn  of 1997 for the Hilliard Ensemble to perform with the 6 viol consort Fretwork.

It is dedicated to Bill Cadman.

Note : Bryars' Cadman Requiem translation

Bryars' Cadman Requiem translation

I Requiem

Eternal rest grant them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

O Lord, hear my prayer, all flesh shall come to thee.

Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy.


II Caedmon Paraphrase (Bede) (tenor solo)

Praise we now the maker of Heaven's fabric, the majesty of His might and His mind's wisdom, work of the world-warden, worker of all wonders, how the Lord of Glory, first made Heaven for the children of men as a roof and shelter, then he made middle earth to be their mansion.


III Agnus Dei

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, give them rest.

Let perpetual light shine upon them, together with thy Saints, for thou art good.

Eternal rest grant them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.


IV Caedmon's "Creation Hymn" (baritone solo)

Now let us praise the keeper of the kingdom of heaven, the might of God and the wisdom of his spirit, the work of the Father of glory, in that he, the eternal Lord, ordained the beginning of everything that is wonderful. He, the holy Creator, first created heaven as a roof for the children of men; afterwards the keeper of mankind, the eternal Lord, almighty Governor, fashioned the world, the middle earth, for mortals.


V In Paradisum

May the angels receive thee in paradise; at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee into the Holy City. There may the choir of angels receive thee and with Lazarus, once a beggar, may thou have eternal rest.

Duration: 15’
Dedicated to "my companions in France, Summer 1989".
Commissioned by the Delta Saxophone Quartet.
Instrumentation: Saxophone quartet (soprano, soprano, alto, baritone).
First performance: Phoenix Arts Centre, Leicester, 3 October 1989.

Note : Alaric I or II (1989)

Alaric I or II (1989)

(dedicated to my companions in France, Summer 1989)

This saxophone quartet is scored for two soprano saxophones, plus alto and baritone, rather than the more common SATB, to mirror the instrumentation and pitch ranges of the more familiar string quartet. I have been interested in the saxophone as a concert instrument for some time and had, of course, known the jazz repertoire fairly well from the time when I worked as a jazz musician in the early 1960's. Indeed, in my first opera Medea I included two saxophones (soprano doubling alto, and alto doubling tenor) in the orchestra both to replace oboes and at the same time to reinforce the chorus. I also wrote an operatic paraphrase, called Allegrasco, of that opera for soprano saxophone and piano in the early 1980's. I have always enjoyed Percy Grainger's views on orchestration and his thinking about the saxophone is particularly illuminating (he made transcriptions and arrangements of early music for the saxophone, for example, finding the instrument's tone quality, especially in ensemble, as a modern equivalent of the sound of medieval instruments).

Alaric I or II was written during the summer of 1989 when I had no access to any instrument or recording equipment and so the musical references which I wanted to include were done, imperfectly, from memory. These included parts of my second opera Doctor Ox's Experiment (then only existing in sketch form), the work of the Argentinean bandoneon player Dino Saluzzi and so on. I also included a number of extended techniques including circular breathing, multiphonics and extreme registers. The piece is technically quite difficult and, curiously, it is the lower instruments which have the hardest parts - the baritone sax having some altissimo passages and, eventually, ending the piece with a brief elegiac solo in the pibroch piping tradition. The piece is essentially lyrical and even vocal in character, thereby following Grainger's idea of the saxophone family (SATB) as a parallel to the family of human voices.

The title comes from the name of the mountain, Mount Alaric, in South West France, opposite the Chateau where I spent the summer. No-one seemed to know which of the two "King Alarics" the name referred to.

Gavin Bryars