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US Premiere of Colin Matthews's A Voice to Wake

Jan. 01, 2019

US Premiere of Colin Matthews's <em>A Voice to Wake</em>

On January 25, the New Juilliard Ensemble, led by Joel Sachs, performs the US premiere of Colin Matthews's A Voice to Wake. The composer describes his work:

"These two poems by the Scots poet John Davidson (1857-1909) - 'Battle' and a fragment from the Eclogue 'New Year's Eve' - have no obvious connection, but in the process of setting them I found it impossible to keep them apart, and so their texts are intertwined. 'A voice to wake' is scored for soprano and nine players and lasts around twelve minutes. It was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 for the 40th birthday of the Nash Ensemble, an anniversary which is belied by the group and its founder's unfailing capacity for self-renewal. The war of words is done; The red-lipped cannon speak; The battle has begun There is a dish to hold the sea, A brazier to hold the sun, A compass for the galaxy, A voice to wake the dead and done! The web your speaches spun Tears and blood shall streak; The war of words is done. That minister of ministers, Imagination, gathers up The undiscovered universe, Like jewels in a jasper cup. Smoke enshrouds the sun; Earth staggers at the shriek Of battle new begun. Its flame can mingle north and south; Its accent with the thunder strive; The ruddy sentence of its mouth Can make the ancient dead alive. Fools and braggarts run: Woe to the poor, the meek! The war of words is done. The mart of power, the fount of will, The form and mold of every star, The source and bound of good and ill, The key of all the things that are, "And hope not now to shun The doom that dogs the weak," Thunders every gun; The key of all the things that are, Imagination new and strange In every age, can turn the year; Thunders every gun; "Victory must be won." The war of words is done, The slaughter has begun. Imagination new and strange In every age, can turn the year; Can shift the poles and lightly change The mood of men, the world's career. The war of words is done."

Listen to Colin Matthews's Horn Concerto (2001) here:

(Horn Concerto/Colin Matthews/Hallé Orchestra/Mark Elder, conductor/Richard Watkins, horn)

The performance is part of the "Focus Festival 2019: On the Air!" saluting 75 years of radio commissioning, and also features Akira Nishimura's Corps d’arc-en-ciel.

Listen to one of Akira Nishimura's major orchestral works, Canticle of Light (1996) here:

(Canticle of Light/Akira Nishimura/Tokyo Symphony Orchestra/Kazuyoshi Akiyama, conductor)

To learn more about Colin Matthews, visit

To learn more about Akira Nishimura, visit

Colin Matthews
A Voice to Wake (2004)
for soprano and chamber ensemble of 9 players

Akira Nishimura
Corps d’arc-en-ciel (2008)
for orchestra