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Song without Words

Songs without Words was written during my composer residency with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, funded in part through the Canada Council for the Arts. The piece is dedicated to Victoria’s excellent English Horn player, Russell Bajer. 

The piece traces the arc of life in four movements: Cradle Song, Hopscotch, Simple Song, and Funeral March. The first and second movement are joined, as are the third and fourth. There are cadenzas at the ends of the second and fourth movements.

The English Horn is not only a solo melodic instrument in the piece, it is sometimes a basis for orchestral lattice work above the instrument's rich and soulful sound. In more lyrical sections, the orchestra accompanies sparingly, as one does with middle voices. In Romantic music the English horn is conventionally used to portray young love, the pastoral, melancholy, and loss. There is, I think, something to this; more than any other instrument, it evokes (at least to me) imaginary landscapes, shepherds, youth—and youth’s passing.

- Rodney Sharman