Dame Gillian Whitehead: retrieving the fragility of peace

Alexander Shelley conducts the NZSO for Aotearoa New Zealand composer Dame Gillian Whitehead's retrieving the fragility of peace.


16 minutes

Performance Date

September 2022


Dame Gillian Whitehead
New Zealand Composer

Dame Gillian Whitehead Retrieving the fragility of peace

Alexander Shelley Conductor

Retrieving the fragility of peace was commissioned by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for the 2022 Season.

While I was writing this piece, my dear friend and colleague, Lyell Cresswell, who I’d known for 50 years since we were young composers-at-large in Britain, was diagnosed with cancer and died a few weeks later. The piece is dedicated to Lyell and his wife Catherine.

One evening, replete with food and wine, the 3 of us were talking, and I was very tired. I opened my eyes and saw them looking at me strangely. ‘Did I say something?’ I asked ‘retrieving the fragility of the voice’, they replied. Sleep talking, and hence the slightly varied title.

Before I’ve heard a piece, sometimes it’s hard to know what to say about it, as it doesn’t come alive until it’s performed, and that’s certainly true of this one, which draws on ideas I’ve worked with recently, but in a more abstract way. I think it may reflect something of the times we’re living in, but words can’t express as music does. It must for itself. -Dame Gillian Whitehead

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