Leaf Carrying Song (1991)

for birbyne (or oboe or flute), violin, viola and cello

Revised 2002; transcribed 2016

To Simon Wynberg

Commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain

Publisher: Bardic Edition

Duration: c. 9 minutes


First performance: Saturday 8 October 2016; Beatričė Kleizaitė-Vasaris Art Gallery, Marijampole, Lithuania; Darius Klisys birbyne, Members of Chordos String Quartet.

Programme note

Leaf Carrying Song is something of a companion piece to my earlier Honey Gathering Song (1989; rev. 1999) for flute and piano. Simon Wynberg wanted a piece he could perform with his oboe (and flute) duo partners on both sides of the Atlantic; he also wanted a piece that exploited the sonority of the 10-string guitar. While I chose the oboe d’amore as the melody instrument for Leaf Carrying Song specifically because of its gentler overall sound and its dark lower register, the piece may be played on the standard oboe or even flute, just as the guitar part may be played on a standard 6-string guitar. The instruments are generally treated as equal partners.


Pieces with titles like Leaf Carrying Song (or Honey Gathering Song) can be found among the music of the pygmy communities in Central Africa. While I make use of African materials and compositional techniques, generally filtered or paraphrased, there is no direct reference to pygmy music in this piece. Although I wrote the work in 1991 it was never performed at the time; in 2002 I revised the work for a possible premiere performance in Canada, which sadly did not materialise. The first performance eventually took place on 2 November 2008 in the ZK Matthews Hall, Pretoria, with Kobus Malan (oboe) and Michal George (guitar). Leaf Carrying Song was commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain for Simon Wynberg, to whom it is dedicated. It lasts about 9 minutes.


More recently I made a version for soprano birbyne or another wind instrument in C and harpsichord, and in 2016 transcribed the harpsichord part for string trio. It was first played in this form on 8 October 2016 in Marijampole, Lithuania by Darius Klisys (birbyne) and members of the Chordos String Quartet.


Chamber music