Monday, April 13, 2009

Music Monday - Peter Louis van Dijk (b. 1953)

Music that is new to me: "Horizons," by Netherlands-born composer Peter Louis van Dijk, who emigrated to South Africa with his family at age nine. This piece was originally written for The King's Singers, and has since been arranged for choir by the composer (SATTBB, published by Hal Leonard Coporation). I didn't expect to like this song, but I absolutely love it. It is the best kind of chamber music--its parts fit together like the interlocking pieces of a puzzle, and it creates a vivid picture of the San of South Africa by implementing non-sung vocal sounds and body percussion (snaps, claps, etc.) throughout the song.

This is just a small snip of the piece as sung by the King's Singers on their CD Street Songs, which recording is absolutely pristine. I highly recommend this version of the song.

From the inside cover of the sheet music:

In a cave, somewhere in the Western Cape region, is a well documented San (Bushman) painting of a Dutch (or, perhaps English) ship, resplendent with flags and sails, rounding the Cape. The painting dates back to the early 1700s and serves as a poignant reminder of the incredible powers of observation of these now virtually extinct people.

Sadly, the very people the San saw as gods, certainly in terms of stature and relative opulence, were to become their executioners (with the help of other black tribes). Physically small, the San described their larger neighbours as animals without hooves and were often mistakenly regarded as cowardly due to their non-confrontational approach to conflict with friend and foe alike.

The eland (a large antelope) represented more than just food and took on an almost supernatural significance, while the rain was seen, supernaturally, to be either male or female (either rain-cow or bull), depending on its intensity.

“Horizons” was written at the request of the King’s Singers for their 1995 South African tour, and commissioned for them by the Foundation for the Creative Arts (South Africa).
Lyrics, in part (written by the composer):

Sleep, my spring-bok baby,
Sleep for me, my spring-bok child,
When morning comes I'll go out hunting,
for you are hungry and thirsty, thirsty and hungry
(repeated several times)

Small moon, Hai! Young moon,
When the sun rises
you must speak to the Rain,
Charm her with herbs and honeycomb,
O speak to her, that I may drink, this little thing,
that I may drink, that I may drink, that I may drink.

She will come across the dark sky:
mighty Rain-cow sing your song for me
that I may find you on the far horizon,
far horizon, horizon.


Anonymous said...

Hi there,
I have to agree with you about liking this song. We sang it in our university choir 4 years ago and I hated practicing for it because the puzzles didn't fit together. When we performed though, I had one of the best hair-raising moments of my life. I almost cried singing that song.


Ashley said...

We also did this piece at my university. We had the extreme pleasure of having Peter Van Dijk and his wife, Junita come to our school and clinic us on his songs. They even conduced on the concert later that week. If you're a fan, keep an eye out for a new song by him. My ensemble, the Texas State University Chorale, will be premiering it at SWACDA in Denver at the end of February. We are also going to South Africa to work with them again in May. He's a wonderful composer and incredible to work with, not to mention hysterical.

Fiddler said...

Thanks, Ashley. I'll keep a look out for the new song!

Anonymous said...

I've been singing in my high school chamber choir for several years now and this was one of the most rewarding songs to sing as it was challenging and engaging to learn. We went on to win first in the chamber division in Pasco Washington with this song along with Sensaymaya