The Ballad of Poui (1994)

Cantata for soloists, children's chorus SSA, string quartet or piano and percussion

African Journal No 19

Text by Bridget Crowley

Commissioned by Brighton International Festival

Publisher: Bardic Edition

Score BD 0801 in preparation

Duration: 35 minutes


First performance: Sunday 22 May 1994; Brighton Festival, Brighton, United Kingdom; Brighton Youth Choir.

Programme note

The cantata The Ballad of Poui, based on a Caribbean folk story with a libretto by Bridget Crowley, was commissioned by the Brighton Festival for the Brighton Youth Choir. It is scored for chorus SSA, soloists (drawn from the chorus), piano and percussion. The first performance of excerpts from the cantata was given on 22 May 1994 at the Brighton Festival with the Brighton Youth Choir conducted by Guy Richardson.

Synopsis of the Story: The people of the island of El Hosea and their Queen await the rains that will bring new growth to their lands. The Queen’s three daughters are to be offered in marriage at the Rain Festival. But the youngest Princess, Poui, is not like anyone else on the island — she is white with golden hair. She must wear a magic crown to keep her from harm. Who will marry her? No Prince offers his hands but Pablo, a farmer, loves her. The Queen agrees to their marriage. Poui is glad as she takes off her crown, believing she will not need it as a farmer’s wife. But her sisters hate her for being different and worse, marrying a farmer. They command the Imps of the Night to cut of Poui’s hair. No one will marry her then. They reckoned without the old woman who made Poui wear the magic crown. She turns the golden curls into beautiful blossoms on trees that grow up overnight. Then she makes Poui’s hair grow again, just in time for the rain festival. Pablo returns and they know their life has just begun.


“The five extracts performed gave only an impression of the charm to be expected from the whole.”
Guy Rickards, Tempo, September 1994


Choral music