Sacred Breath – Turbulent Ocean

The NZCBA Festival 2017 in Whangarei featured the premiere of an exciting piece with unusual instrumentation.  The audience was riveted, and participants raved about the experience. The composer, Anthony Young, shared the following:

In 2016, Fiona Douglas approached me to write the piece with the hope that it would be part of the national concert band festival to be held in Whangarei in 2017. This is my third commission with Whangarei Youth Music (WYM) and/or Sistema Whangarei – Toi Akorangi.

In 2014, I wrote Saddleback, combining traditional fiddle players, Sistema children learning strings, and the WYM Orchestra. The commission for Sacred Breath – Turbulent Ocean was similar but a little more challenging, due to the combination of more diverse musicians: WYM Concert Band, children from Sistema on recorders, potentially anyone on bucket-drums, and a group of pukaea played by carvers of the instruments.

Fiona suggested the title and although we didn’t discuss it much, we both ended up thinking along the same lines: Sacred Breath – Turbulent Ocean explores environmental ideas, in particular the current state of the world’s oceans.

The piece is made up of four sections. The opening builds a sustained texture with the use of the harmonic series. Buckets being moved in small circles create a breeze-like noise underneath. The second section features clarinets and woodwinds in a waiata punctuated discordantly with brass. This is followed by a shift in timbre and key to the recorders, playing a pentatonic melody. A pukaea fanfare summons the return of the concert band for the final section with a battery of bucket drummers in a turbulent and raucous re-imagining of the recorder melody.