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Excellent Review for Sadie Harrison’s ‘Fire in Song’ in Musical Opinion

We are delighted that the Divine Art/Metier recording of Sadie’s new chamber work Fire in Song has received another excellent review, this time by Paul Conway in Musical Opinion. Conway writes: 'In Sadie Harrison’s Fire in Song, for clarinet, viola and two clapstick-playing narrators (2020), the creation story about fire is told by the Yolngu group of Aboriginal Australians. The work was written during the catastrophic bush fires that swept much of Australia in 2019-2020 and reflects on the Aboriginal approach to these fires.

‘A passionately declamatory opening movement, The World’s Lament gives way to a set of movements based on Aboriginal songs and dances from Northern and Central Australia. After a gleeful movement entitled Bandicoot and the Hollow Log, Aboriginal clapstick strokes usher in Quail and the Burning Twig, in which the viola produces grey, ashen colours under the clarinet’s breathy held notes. The tempo increases for the lively, dance-like Honey Bees and the Paperbark Swamp. In Honey Bees and the Tall Grass, relentless clapsticks, earthy viola and clarinet in its chalumeau register perform a stomping bee dance. In the following movement the story of fire’s creation by Bäru, the Saltwater Crocodile, and the joyful unification of clans as it was spread across Australia by animals, insects and birds, is recited by percussionists (Alexander Szram and Sophie Harris) to the pulse of clapsticks. In the closing movement the instruments sound with one angry voice their Lament for the Whole World.

‘In her deeply felt, powerfully communicative score, Sadie Harrison voices her concern about the state of our planet’s ecology in time-honoured forms such as songs and dances. There is rage as well as exuberance in what is perhaps the most sincerely personal musical statement this thoughtful, ardent composer has given us to date.’ 

Fire in Song for clarinet, viola, clapsticks and narrators was commissioned by Ian Mitchell and Gemini and will receive its premiere performance on 1st October 2021 as part of the Late Music Series in York at the Unitarian Chapel (7pm), alongside other works on the disc by Howard Skempton, Nicola Lefanu, Tony Coe, Cyril Scott and Rebecca Clarke.