Two compositions by Adelaide composer Peter Webb will be heard for the first time by Quakers gathered in Adelaide for their annual Yearly Meeting gathering, 2-9 January.
The first of Peter Webb’s compositions, a set of three songs for soprano, string quartet and didgeridu (yidaki), will be played during the first formal session of the Yearly Meeting. This session is called “Together we become One”, and is a ceremony bringing together the Quaker Yearly Meeting with the Kaurna people - the traditional Aboriginal custodians of the Adelaide plains.
“These works were commissioned two years ago by Quakers in South Australia, as the hosts of the 2010 annual gathering,” Peter Webb said. The titles of the songs are Two Magpies, Red the Lament of the Land and Dreamings. Dreamings uses words by a Tasmanian Quaker, Kenneth Carroll, from ‘this we can say’, an Australian publication of contemporary Quaker faith and practice.
“The words of the songs reflect in a realistic but positive way on the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians,” Peter said.
Each of the two compositions is about 15-20 minutes duration. The second, to be performed at the closing Meeting for Worship on Saturday morning, 9 January, is also for soprano and string quartet, but with a solo oboe replacing the didjeridu.
“This composition is made up of six ‘miniatures’ which reflect on the Quaker Testimonies of Simplicity, Justice, Truth, Equality, and Peace,” Peter said. “The introduction is ‘Walk cheerfully’, a phrase used nearly four centuries ago by Quaker founder George Fox, who recommended that those drawn to Quaker practice should ‘walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone’.”
Quaker beliefs and practice sit well with Peter Webb’s compositional philosophy. “In composition, as in life, I strive for clarity and simplicity, and to speak openly and directly. I belong to no compositional school or ‘-ism’, but try to express truth, experience, and self in a language that listeners can understand.”
Peter came to Adelaide in 1975 to take up the position as an oboe and cor anglais player in the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. His involvement in community music since has been extensive. He has been the conductor of the Unley Symphony Orchestra since 1983, and of Choir Cecilia since 1997. He has also been a guest conductor of many other Adelaide choirs and ensembles, as well as being a member of the Council of the Young Adelaide Voices. In 2008 and 2009, he was Director of the South Australia State Music Camp.