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Home : mUSiciansKey Commissions : 2014 This Paradise Now

This Paradise Now

Composer: Sally Whitwell
Commissioned by:
 Leichhardt Espresso Chorus
Sponsor: 
Premiere: The 2014 S is for Seuss, Silly Sayings and Sublime Songs concert on 14-Jun-2014 
Movements: 6

Sally Whitwell's This Paradise Now suite consists of six movements:
1. This Paradise Now
2. Mis Flipflap O'Flurry
3. Mister Garrulous Grinder
4. MC Smarmy
5. Negotiations
6. Epilogue

This is what Sally wrote about how she developed the suite.

There are so many wonderful things about Dr. Seuss. Like so many, I grew up reading his books so they carry a kind of nostalgia with them too. It was interesting to really think hard about what it is that makes his work so special - those surreal drawings, the inexorable roll of anapaestic tetrameter (amongst other favoured meters), or that unique combination of conscience and imagination. It occurred to me that setting any text as well known and as big selling as Dr. Seuss might be difficult and/or expensive in regards to copyright. It is. But then it also occurred to me that it was better to have something of our own making anyway. I say “our” making, because I wanted to involve the performers as much as was possible. Unfortunately there wasn’t much time for text workshops with the choristers but I did spend a lovely couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon with them and came up with a few marvellous ideas, one of which I ended up using (not that all their ideas weren’t brilliant, I just couldn’t fit them all in!).  Thus, my little eco-allegory was born!

It’s a classic tale of the clash of ideals. One party values the forest as a delicate ecosystem that shouldn’t be disturbed, the other party values it purely as a raw material from which to make objects, or sees it as obstructing the development of the land, irregardless of the impact it’s destruction would have upon the planet. In the spirit of  the kind of allegorical representations favoured by Dr. Seuss, I chose to loosely represent each of the parties musically i.e. the music of the forest folk has a sweeping cinematic tone and the music of the city dwellers is decidedly urban in tone (jazz and hip hop). The spirit of the music becomes frantically farcical as the parties each argue their case, something like Gilbert and Sullivan operetta meets Officer Krupke from Bernstein’s West Side Story. Never fear, all ends well and the decidedly conservationist moral of the story leaves us all feeling optimistic in regards to the future of our planet.

Read more about This Paradise Now in Limelight Magazine.

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