About the work
“Chant” was written in June 1986. The Chernobyl disaster had occurred a few weeks earlier, and – through thorough publicity – most people had definite feelings about the event, and about previous events which had been less well publicised. I felt choked; feelings of helplessness prevailed over all else, tending towards negative sensations of existence. With no time to brood, it was more like a shadow covering all the great feelings of life. “Chant” has no explicable text; it is more a vehicle for exclamation (the immediacy of voice revealing its soul, the instinctiveness of breast-beating in times of distress, the seizing of the nearest tools to hand for emphasis – pebbles and kazoos – and so on); it is a human claim for life, a reaction from a numbed state.
First Performance: BBC Singers, St John’s Smih Square, October 1989
The score shows the preferred layout of the three SATB groups, and gives instructions on vowel sounds. Performers need to use pebbles and kazoos at some points during the piece, but alternatives are suggested if these are not available. Allow the feel to predominate, i.e. internalise rhythms – they will work harmoniously if precisely sung. All tunes are given precedence dynamically.