Strange Joy

Programme Note

Strange Joy, which is scored for the same instrumentation as William Walton’s Facade, is a cycle of three settings of the First World War poet Isaac Rosenberg. The first poem, ‘On Receiving News of the War’, was written in 1914 in Cape Town, South Africa, and contrasts the warm weather of that ‘Summer land’ with the metaphorical Winter of wartime. The music is simple and meditative and constitutes a calm introduction to the cycle. ‘Break of Day in the Trenches’ was composed in June 1916, with Rosenberg now fighting on the Western Front, and depicts a rat – here depicted by the bass clarinet – which has ‘cosmopolitan sympathies’, and makes no distinction between English and German. Finally, ‘Returning, we hear the larks’ brings a note of hope to the cycle, and the horrors of the war are to a small extent mitigated by the ‘strange joy’ of birdsong.



15th March 2019
Juliet Wallace (Narrator), Zachary Dickerson (Conductor), KCL students
KCL Chapel

30th April 2016
Joseph Hardy (Narrator), Matthew Hardy (Conductor), GSMD students
St John’s, Notting Hill

24th November 2015
Joseph Hardy (Narrator), Matthew Hardy (Conductor), East London Music Group
The Octagon, Queen Mary University of London

Year: 2015
Duration: 12′
Instrumentation: Narrator, Ensemble (fl(=picc).cl(=bcl).asax – tpt – perc(1): snare drum/susp.cym – vc)
Commission: Commissioned by East London Music Group

1 – On Receiving News of the War
2 – Break of Day in the Trenches
3 – Returning, we hear the larks