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2019/10/07

Work of the Week – Gavin Bryars: A Native Hill

On Sunday 13 October, The Crossing chamber choir conducted by Donald Nally will give the world premiere of Gavin Bryars’ much anticipated choral work, A Native Hill, in its complete version. The work is Bryars’ second collaboration with The Crossing following The Fifth Century in 2014, which won a Grammy Award.

Gavin Bryars – A Native Hill: Political and social implications explored through rural themes

Setting text by American writer and poet Wendell Berry, A Native Hill  is Bryars’ most substantial work for unaccompanied choir to date. His decision to set Berry’s 1968 essay of the same name was influenced by the implicit social and political force that lies behind Berry’s words that, at first appearance, might seem to be purely pastoral descriptions of rural existence.

There’s a kind of breath to it and a sort of universality, which goes way beyond that. So I was struck by the […] profundity that was there by implication; not obviously. – Gavin Bryars

A Native Hill is composed in twelve sections that build to a finale in which the 24 voices of the choir separate into individual parts, forming a rich chromatic cluster. Out of the dense passages, Bryars slowly exposes familiar harmonies and melodic movement.

Later this year, Rondo Vocale will perform Bryars’ The Fifth Century and On Photography in Stuttgart on 17 November. In February 2020, Bryars’ String Quartet No. 4 for the Smith Quartet will receive its world premiere in Pisa, Italy.