Moon Incantations

five pieces for mixed choir

Liz Dilnot Johnson

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five pieces for mixed choir

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Composer Liz Dilnot Johnson
Year of Composition 2003
Duration ca.16'
Categories (all composers) , ,
Catalogue ID ce-lj1mi1


Moon Incantations was written as part of the Adopt-A-Composer scheme 2003 for Bournville Young Singers, funded by spnm, Making Music and the PRS Foundation.
The first performance took place on March 29th 2003 at St Paul’s Hockley, Birmingham, conducted by Anne Ellis, Joe George, Danny Whatmough and Debbie Schneider. The piece reached the finals of the British Composer Awards.

Each of the movements takes a different list of words describing a feature of the moon, inspired by a fascinating moon map I found in a book about the night sky. The final score represents a collaboration between me and the choir, my initial ideas being shaped by members of the choir themselves through workshop sessions, sometimes using vocal improvisation as a starting point and also through discussion of how to create a series of distinctive magical lunar landscapes.

The first Moon Map is an other-wordly list of the moon’s craters and mountains while the second evokes imaginary waves of the lakes and seas of the moon. The third piece combines distant mutterings and calls of the names of mysterious mountains, seas and craters found on the dark side of the moon. The Hymn to Cheese is in barbershop style, as requested by the barbershop group in the BYS who asked me to compose something ‘really cheesy’. The work ends with words from dictionary definitions of the moon: ‘earth’s satellite, crescent-shaped outwork… most graceful sphere, shrouded mystery’ sung by a soprano solo, leading to the chorus where the whole choir sings ‘O lunula moon’ (‘lunula’ means crescent). From its quiet opening the music builds in brightness like the waxing moon, then settles into calm, rich chords surrounded by a halo of star-like Indian bells and chimes.