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Down in the Brunner Mine was commissioned by The Onslow Brass Band in Wellington and first performed and broadcast in 1996. It is a short set of variations based on a New Zealand folk song called 'Down in the Brunner Mine'. The folk song describes the coal mine on the West Coast, near Greymouth, and tells of the disaster that occured there in the 1890s when about 60 men were killed in a mine collapse. Here is the first stanza: We worked in the heat and the thick black dust, Sticks to your skin like a burnt pie crust, We rue each day the miner must Go down in the Brunner Mine. The folksong tune is announced by the cornets at the beginning, playing in their low register, accompanied by heavy chords in the low brass. Variation 1 features a horn solo, and the cornets return for Variation 2, playing in fourths. Variations 3 and 4 are strident in character and feature short flourishes. The snare drum enters at the start of Variation 5 and the cornets play a punchy idea using repeated notes. This idea returns in contrapuntal form in Variation 7, while the 6th variation inbetween features little fragments of the theme on various instruments. Variation 8 is powerful and buffeting, and uses the theme in canon. Variations 9-11 make use of the theme's arpeggio outline and the music builds to a climax. Following this, the music gradually winds down in Variation 12, with the theme appearing in inversion against a repeated bass pattern. After a reflective silence, the short chorale-like coda rounds off the work, and is marked "in memoriam".
Commissioned by the Onslow Brass Band, Wellington with financial assistance from the Arts Council of NZ Toi Aotearoa (now Creative New Zealand)
Dedicated to Helen Aldred, conductor
Theme, 12 variations, coda