Towards First Light

Libretto: Kate Mulvany after the words of Australian war Veterans and their families



I   INTROIT      SATB Chorus

II   KYRIE         Baritone, Soprano

III   DIES IRAE      SATB Chorus, Sop, Bar

IV   LACRIMOSA      Soprano, SA Chorus

V   LUX AETERNA      SATB Chorus

VI   LIBERA ME      SATB Chorus, Sop, Bar

VII   IN PARADISUM      SATB Chorus, Sop, Bar


Program note:

“The words and ideas in Towards First Light come directly from the hearts and memories of soldiers and their families. These incredible men and women shared their stories with us face-to-face, and through the publications The Anzac Book, Khaki and Green, Jungle Warfare and Soldiering On. Some have passed, some live on, but to all we are eternally grateful.”

So writes Kate Mulvany, my collaborator on Towards First Light. In placing these texts at the core of this work, replacing as they do the traditional Requiem verses, it is our intention to not only acknowledge the primacy of Veterans in the genesis of the piece – without their sacrifice and service, it simply wouldn’t exist – but also to open the work to a broader audience – one that is both secular and religious.

The process of remembering what we already know is called Anamnesis. In focusing on memory and remembering as a central idea for the work, Kate and I hope to not only bring ‘Lest we forget’ into renewed focus, but also to acknowledge that for Servicemen and Women, the echoes of war can continue long after the battlefield falls silent. The uncovering of the truth through repeated memories is a healing process that we hope can lead to a lightness and freedom. To this end, there are many musical and word motifs that recur throughout the work. Musically, these consist primarily of the Tritone, with its historical echoes as the ‘Diabolus in Musica’ and the equivalently pervasive (at least in Western musical terms) figure of lamentation – a descending 4 note scalic motif. These two ideas generate both macro and micro structures throughout, with the tonal centres of seven movements of the piece migrating through the cycle of 5ths, making the first and final movements a tritone apart.

I must thank Mike Rann, former Premier of South Australia for his vision and courage in making available the funds for the commissioning of this work, to Simon Lord and all at the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra for their remarkable support in seeing it come to life, and to all the performers whose commitment to it has been thrilling to be around.

I can’t imagine what it would have been like on that fateful dawn a hundred years ago, or in any of the other countless First Light wartime moments before or since. I hope that in the process of remembering that dawn, we may one day find another enlightenment. Lest We Forget.

Note: Iain Grandage, March 2015


Librettist’s note:

Excerpts from this work have been taken from the books “The Anzac Book”, “Khaki and Green” and “Jungle Warfare”, which were written and published by ANZAC forces in WWI and WWII. Although the descendants of these wonderful poets have been difficult to track down, all due course has been taken to do so. I’d like to thank all who assisted in this extensive search, and who gave their blessing to use the words of these young men. Particular thanks to my mother Glenys whose father and grandfather passed these incredible books onto her, and which she has kept safe all these years.


Further excerpts and ideas come from the countless war veterans, their families and friends – both here and abroad – that have trusted me with their words and stories over the years, in particular my father Danny Mulvany and his mate Phil Lamb who both served in Vietnam.

I am truly indebted to you all.

Note: Kate Mulvany, March 2015



“Grandage shows us intimacy, vulnerability, inspiration, comfort and desolation in this exceptional piece… …Towards First Light is a majestic and noble memorial in the grand tradition of great orchestral choral music, and a glorious and fitting of work of Remembrance.”  Gordon Forester, Limelight Magazine 24th April 2015


Full Review here


“Another attempt at myth-building around the Anzac legend may be cause for scepticism, but Iain Grandage’s Towards First Light is a powerful work, noble in spirit, that in its direct honesty sweeps aside any such concern.”

“… this was a memorable world premiere of a major new Australian work. Grandage conducted a polished Adelaide Symphony Orchestra with tremendous flair and energy.” Graham Strahle, The Australian 24th April 2015


Full Review here



There is Darkness.




We will re-mem-ber

We will re-mem-ber them.


Wake and stand for us

Wake and walk with us

to-ward first light!


The daw-ning glow of re-mem-brance



For there is re-lief in the re-col-lec-tion

Their mem-’ry is e-ter-nal

And so must ours be


For who will re-mem-ber us

If we do not re-mem-ber them?

If we do not re-mem-ber them?


Lest we for-get

Lest we for-get to re-mem-ber…




April again

I rise before dawn

Today, this day of all my days,

What will the silence be?


I stand with head lowered

Ghosts in my soul

Not worthy of their memory

Ghosts in my soul



Memories echo through our house

I hear them as he lay beside me

Whispered in his restless dreams

Voices of fallen warriors



The quiet disquietens

Shakes me to my core

The shifting shadows of service

Echoes of long-dead voices…


Who am I to remember?

Who am I to honour?

Have mercy on their memories

I am not worthy.



My love, my one,

Returned, silent, solemn and shifted



Who am I to remember them?

When I cannot remember me?



I hear the echoes

Ghosts in your soul

And wonder where you went

Where you left yourself.

Drift back, bright star,

Drift back and comfort me.



The echoes are still growing,

Now bugles in my head,

Bouncing through my blistered brain,

Metallic fear in my mouth

My skin prickles, gut twists, ears prick

As silenced voices shout

Their grievances

As silenced voices shout

from the grave…


(With excerpts from “The Silence” by Private RJ Godfrey,

7th Aust. Field Ambulance; and  ”From Quinn’s Post” by Private VN Hopkins.

AMC, att. 17th Australian Battalion from The Anzac Book, 1915)


3.     DIES IRAE



A is the Anguish spread over our face

When we see the remarkable look of the place.


B’s Beachy Bill, such a marvel of cunning,

A message from whom sends the best of us running.


C is the Chills felt in the feet

When bullets commence to invade our retreat.


D is the Dugout we’ve spent so much time at,

Its shade gives us hope of defeating the climate.


Our voices rise in battle cry

As the dawning sun kisses the sky


E is the Earth which we find in our hair

As we wake in the morning and crawl from our lair.


F are the Fleas and also the Flies

Who feed on a fellow wherever he lies.


G is the Gripes that grip us within –

The result of commodities packed in a tin.


H is the wretched unfortunate Hill,

Bombarded and mined but untappable still.


Our voices rise in battle cry

As the dawning sun sears the sky



I am filled with strange oaths, quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation in the cannon’s mouth… cannon’s mouth…



J is the Jam with our rations and rum –

We find is almost invariably Plum.


K is the Knowledge we quickly acquire

Of hiding whenever the enemy fire.


L is the Louse that lurks in our vests,

Takes over our skin and tickles our chests.


M is the Monitor, firing at night,

Which keeps us awake when the lice don’t bite.


N is the Night when, with trembling hearts,

We await the invisible battle to start.



And the bullets whistle as they fly

While the dawning sun scalds the sky



O is the Optimist, her heart struck by a splinter,

Hoping and praying he’ll be home by the winter.



P sees us Primed – we must shake off the quake

Whenever a launch makes a wash with her wake.


Q stands for Quick, into the tunnel we dash

When a missile close by explodes with a crash.



R is for Remembering where our hearts have gone

With our soldiers so far from home.



S is the Silence;  we hold tight to each breath

Exhaling too loudly could mean our death



T is the Telephone cutting off stations



In the midst of conversations.



U are filled with strange oaths, quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation in the cannon’s mouth



U are filled with strange oaths,

strange oaths,

strange oaths,


On bleeding field a young man cries

As the dawning sun consumes the sky


V is for Victory. How we shall sing

Waltzing Matilda and God Save the King!


W stands for the various Wiles

We employ to keep each other in smiles.


X the X-periments made with a bomb –

A neat little cross on a nice little tomb.



Y is it so bloody hard to say

How I want to hold him for just one more day?



Z in the Zenith of power and glory…

One conclusion to this little story.


As we lay strewn beneath dawn’s awful blush…


(Texts by JWS Henderson, RGA and Ubique, 21st Indian Mtn Battery – ‘An Anzac Alphabet’ and ‘Another Attempt at an Anzac Alphabet’ – from The Anzac Book , 1915 – with additions by Kate Mulvany and William Shakespeare)





Shed thou no tears!…

They heard the far, clear call,

And answered.

Out from the quiet places and the gentle folk

They knew and loved,

They went, and questioned not.

…Weep not for them.


For they have gone beyond the Night,

And found

Quiet havens where the waters laughing run,


Shed thou no tears!…

For these high souls, in their last hour,

Walked with honour, and marvellously knew

The joy and pain of sacrifice; and reached

Their goal, as runners do, with swift,

Drawn breath.



We will remember them.

Lest we forget

Lest we forget to remember…

We will remember them.

Walk with Us


WOMAN (with the above stanza)

And rest is given.

They sleep in fields of amaranth, flow’r-crowned;



And all their glory lights the hills…

Drift back, bright star,

Drift back and comfort me.



We will remember



For theirs was a wondrous way, who came,

Down all the winds of turbulence,

To keep, for you, this rendezvous

With Death.

…Weep not for them.

Weep not for them…


(Excerpt from ‘Shed Thou No Tears -  NX65238, Middle East, 1943 – from the book Khaki and Green)





Wake and stand for us,

We that have fallen.

You are our ally and our voice.


Live not as a ghost

Your journey continues

Take it, make it


Bring us home

Bring us home

On this day of all our days


There is relief

In the recollection

There is peace in our presence


Fill our echoed voices

with breath

Complete our call through time


Walk for us

Walk for us

through the odyssey of history


Drift back, soldier

Heed your orders now

And bring us home, bring us home


We did not fall to be forgotten

We did not fight for naught

So straight back, ally, and march on


Shine your shoes and march on

Pin your breast and march on


Eyes straight

Kiss our kids

Comfort our mothers

Watch our wives wave


You, the living memory of us,

Remember to remember

Remember to remember

Lest you forget

Lest you forget to remember.


6.     LIBERA ME



I cannot stand this

My mind is filled with horror


Memory is a shifting shadow

Warping weirdly, wildly


I cannot stand this

I will not wake



I cannot stand this

Fragile, eggshell mind



I am an unworthy voice

I am a coward ally



Lift your head, my one, my love

Drift, drift back.



Leave me be, lest I bite

My guts now twist with fear



I will not live with a ghost

Lift your head and see



I’ve seen it. Breathed it.

Dreamed it. Sweated

Pissed it. Hated it.

Loved it.


Marched it. Tasted it.

Spat it. Seen it. Been it.


And so I do not want this remembrance

No more.

And so I do not want this remembrance

Leave me be.



Lift your head and see

Raise your tired eyes


See the allies, all around you

Take comfort in my arms


Life brings relief

Live for them, live for me



I will not be conscripted.

I warn you, I will not be told.



We all march beside you,



Leave me to my silence



my soldier love



Let me be a living ghost



We march beside you, my soldier son

So lift your damned head, my soldier




The cannon’s mouth is wide.



As we remember them, we remember you

As we honour them, we honour you.

You soldier of all soldiers.

Now lift your head and see.

Bright star, now see.


The cannon’s mouth…is silent.


CHORUS (including Man and Woman)

The death they suffered, shall not be in vain,

And they once more

Will rise in glory and, like sentinels,

Stand quiet guard, while over hill and dell

The foliage fresh of peace will gently rest,

And men with freedom, love and hope

Be blest



So walk with me toward first light

The dawning glow of remembrance

I will protect you if you protect me

And we will protect them together,

We drift back, bright stars.

As we walk on toward first light.

Our heads lifted, shifting souls,

Our minds a field of remembrance.

Today, this day of all our days

We have seen what the silence can be.


(Excerpt from ’Hidden Battlefields’ by VX

116298 – 1944 – from the book Jungle Warfare)


There is Light.




Towards First Light

An Oratorio