Unity (for SATB choir and orchestra, 1997) was commissioned by the Department of School Education NSW Performing Arts Unit, for performance by the 1997 NSW Combined Public Schools Senior Choir and NSW Public Schools Orchestra at the Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House.
The work draws on a poem of Kevin Gilbert’s (1933-1993) entitled “Unity”. Published in 1994, the poem is concerned with the unity of “the you and the me” and our oneness with the land and sea.
Commencing quietly with celesta, strings and percussion, the musical setting slowly builds with voices singing of “joining and moving and binding and weaving”. This chain of text weaves in and out of the musical setting at regular intervals and binds the various sections of the work together.
Following this introduction, the opening section of the poem “I am the land / I am the trees / I am the rivers / that flow to the seas /” is sung by sopranos with trumpets playing in unison. A further three sections of the poem gradually incorporate more singers and accompanying brass instruments. A recurring orchestral interlude which includes a prominent tuned percussion and woodwind melody follows each section of the poem, itself too, gradually incorporating a fuller texture as the work progresses.
Following the mid-way point of the work, the choral and orchestral texture is pared down to leave only the lowest voices and orchestral instruments. From this point, the work gradually builds with the inclusion of voices in ascending ranges accompanied by increasing numbers of orchestral instruments / families until the final tutti section of the work when the singers proclaim the last lines of the poem – “In the essence of life we are one.”