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01684 773883

Peter Lawson
SONG OF THE WHITE HELLEBORINE
for cello and piano
Goodmusic GM191

Catalogue Number: GM191

ISMN: 9790222303430

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Song of the White Helleborine image
This is the thirty-eighth to be written in a cycle of musical portraits of the forty-eight wild orchids of Great Britain and Ireland for various instrumental and orchestral combinations.
The White Helleborine, Cephalanthera Damasonium is a delight to see in May or June, often growing in deep shade where no other plants grow, chiefly in beechwoods on calcareous soils. It has a preference for young or coppiced beechwoods, where there is a little more light and perhaps a chance of pollination by insects. Its elegant, creamy-white flowers often do not fully open, particularly if self-pollination is taking place, but if one is lucky enough to spot a flower which has opened up, the lower lip of the inflorescence is golden yellow - hence the alternative name of 'Poached-Egg Plant'.
The Song of the White Helleborine is cast in two contrasting movements. The first, Damasonium, opens with a cadenza for the cello, using harmonies from a colour-coding scheme employed in the other orchid portraits, in this case, white, golden-yellow and green. There follows a warm interplay between the cello and piano, chiefly utilising these three colours, with hints of Romantic, Classical and Baroque styles intended to reflect the elegant beauty of the flowers.
The second movement, Poached-Egg Plants in the Beechwood, is an imagined walk through a beechwood - somewhat sombre, awesome and cathedral-like at first. The music employs a passacaglia-like repeated sequence of colour-coded chords - not only the orchid's colours this time, but also the blue sky above and the brown carpet of dead leaves below. As one's eyes get carried upwards to the canopy of leaves, the cello weaves a melody over the chord sequence, building in intensity. Conversely, as the eyes drop down again, the music darkens to fall on the leaf-mould and the mycorrhizal fungus underground on which all orchids depend for their nutrition. We arrive at something of a clearing, where coppicing has taken place and discover a colony of White Helleborines in the dappled shade. The music becomes more playful and we get drawn into the inner world of the orchid and its environment. Eventually we walk on through the beechwood: the passacaglia returns, but in a short coda we remember the uplifting experience of seeing the plants… at this point, the music briefly returns to conclude in the jovial, scherzo-like mode. Peter Lawson
Duration 9 minutes

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