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When noted Finnish conductor Tapani Tirilä asked for a new piece for choir, his request was a work with soundscape and a text that would reference climate change or environmental concerns in some way. An internet search turned up The Arctic Tern’s Prayer which suggests the plight of seabirds in this changing world. The poem, by Mary Anne Clarke, was a winning work in the 2013 “Cape Farewell Challenge” - a competition organised by The Poetry Society.
The soundscape was developed and created by post-graduate student Alexander Alford, following some suggestions from the composer. The choral score was then woven around the sounds of the soundscape. The soundscape contains three basic musical elements: long drones, bell sounds and occasional arctic tern calls and chatter. In addition, there are sounds of nature: thunderclaps and water sounds.
The Arctic Tern’s Prayer is dedicated to Tapani Tirilä whose choirs always demonstrate excellence, and who has been a friend since my first visit to Finland (with my own school choir) in 1989. Thanks also to Mary Anne Clarke for her immediate willingness to let me set her evocative poem.
Commissioned by Oulainen Youth Choir (Oulainen, Finland)
for Tapani Tirilä
Text by Mary Anne Clarke