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This work was written as part of a series of composer workshops organised by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, for works for organ and orchestra. The Auckland Town Hall organ had been restored and refurbished, returning it to its original splendour as a magnificent concert organ. Six composers were invited to write works for organ and symphony orchestra during 2012, for performance in 2013.
For this work I proposed a work that would contrast percussive sounds with the sound of the organ.
The title appealed to me through its various meanings and associations. Firstly as 'a mythological, fire-breathing monster, commonly represented with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail'. Surely if anything could be said to be a musical embodiment of a 'fire-breathing monster' it would be the pipe organ! A second definition suggests a ‘chimera’ might be seen as a 'grotesque monster having disparate parts', and also as a 'vain or idle fancy'. These last two definitions perhaps relating to the disparate nature of sounds available on the instrument, and the somewhat free-form of the work.
Musically the work contrasts a syncopated one-bar rhythmic idea with more flowing melodic material presented by both the orchestra and the organ. In the final bars the two powerful forces battle for supremacy with the organ having the last word!
I was delighted to be paired with organist John Wells for this project, a musician and fellow composer who I admire greatly (and whose daughters I had taught!). His advice and support were very much appreciated.
Written as part of the Auckland Philharmonia Composer Development project 2012/13.
23 May 2013: Organ Spectacular