One Last Bar Then Joe Can Sing

One Last Bar Then Joe Can Sing
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One Last Bar Then Joe Can Sing (1994) was commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain for the percussion quintet Nexus, and is a reflection on aspects of percussion history, both personal and musical. The members of Nexus are my friends (I played in the Steve Reich Ensemble along with Russ Hartenberger in 1972, the year after Nexus was formed). The piece aimed to demonstrate how a fine percussion ensmeble can be as musically expressive and subtle as, say, a string quartet. The piece starts from the last bar at the end of the second act of my opera Medea, a very short coda for a quintet of untuned percussion instruments during which the curtain falls. In this piece, however, this one apparently innocuous measure is progressively fragmented until it is taken over, little by little, by the addition of tuned percussion instruments. Eventually two metallophones (crotales and songbells) play aria-like material with bows, occasionally joined by the xylophone, and accompanied by marimba and xylophone ostinati. The piece ends with a coda in which phrases are passed from bowed vibraphone to bowed crotales, then to bowed songbells, supported by tremolos on the marimbas. The rare 3-octave songbells that Nexus owns is one of the American instrument maker J. C. Deagan's particularly fine instruments. The piece is effectively a kind of homage to Deagan, the Stradivarius of the tuned percussion world, who collaborated closely with Percy Grainger in the development of tuned percussion music between the wars. The allusions in the title are obvious: the "one last bar" is the last measure of music from my opera; the "song" is that of Deagan's songbells. In the case of "Joe" I wanted to link my father, Joe Bryars (who was a good amateur baritone singer) with Joseph Deagan and his songbells. However, some time after I had written the piece, Nexus's Bob Becker took me to one side and told me (gently) that the initial "J" in Deagan's name, in fact, stood for "John"Gavin Bryars


Product IDCOBS012648177
Composer/Artist/Author Gavin Bryars
Instrumentation Percussion Ensemble
Publisher Schott (Edition)
Publisher Ref No ED12585
Media Set of Parts

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