The Keep

Program note:

I grew up in Western Australia, a first generation Australian of English parentage – a pale ginger in a sea of sunned faces. The world of my youth was filled with dunes and beaches, boulder-clambering and desert trips, and whilst these places were mine to experience, the stories contained within them weren’t. Having since had the privilege of working extensively with indigenous Australians and seeing this inescapable connection between country and culture first hand, I find myself seeking my own family’s ancient stories from within my Anglo-Celtic heritage.
So it is that I was drawn to Tim Winton’s The Riders, a novel which, with the help of Victorian Opera, Malthouse Theatre and librettist Alison Croggon am currently using as the basis for an opera. The legendary Riders of the title are central to many myths in ancient Europe, including Scully’s Celtic dreaming – a dreaming that is, in Winton’s language, desert Irish. These Riders first appear to Scully (the novel’s central character) as he wanders below an old ruined castle’s Keep. They and their worldly purpose is wonderfully evoked in the final poem (XXXVI) from ‘Chamber Music’ by James Joyce

This work, The Keep is based on material from this first meeting scene, and also contains a quote of the folk song Raglan Road which Winton sows throughout his novel. It is written for and dedicated to Plexus, a new ensemble that contains three of the finest musicians I have ever had the pleasure of making music with.

Metropolis New Music Festival. Melbourne Recital Centre, April 1-12.
…The provocation to explore myth, mysticism, ancient tradition and natural wonder has served to unify and stimulate the festival chamber program.

After an eclectic opening night recital ranging from Bach to Harrison Birtwistle by British pianist Joanna MacGregor, a polished performance by recently established Melbourne clarinet-violin-piano trio Plexus featured world premieres by significant Australian composers — Richard Mills, Paul Grabowsky, Iain Grandage, Gordon Kerry and Michael Kieran Harvey — with abundant references to Greek and Celtic mythology, indigenous Australian lore and humanity’s dialogue with the universe.
From The Australian


The Keep

for Bass Clarinet, Violin and Piano