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Darin Au : Gavlebocken for guitar ensemble ( in four parts)



Darin Au

Les Productions D’Oz: Score and separate parts (16, 4, 7, 4, and 4 pages respectively)


This Hawaiian composer has already had considerable success with another Guitar ensemble piece Chasing Dragons, first performed in 2000.Now he’s here again with a new work composed for the 2020 National Association for Music Education All – National Guitar Ensemble, and set on four staves.

The work refers to a holiday symbol from Scandinavia, a giant straw yule goat which is erected on the 1st day of Advent. In Gavle itself, the goat can reach 30 – 40 feet high.

The piece begins with an 11 bar slow introduction that plays with the theme that arises at bar 12 in the real opening section that has a speed of 132 beats a minute and is set in 3 / 4 in A minor. A very folk – influenced melody then appears in guitar 4 with bare fifths and fourths accompanying elsewhere. The theme then continues, with variations on this idea, and moves around from part to part so that all the players get the chance to play it. A new idea then enters set in quavers but with the rhythm varying from 3 pairs, to 2 groups of three on occasion, before the opening idea returns for one more go.

Then the second and final part of the piece, set in 6/8 at 120 dotted crotchets a minute takes us into a new direction entirely and is based on three bar phrases based on the melody from the opening section. Here the syncopated rhythms really do require careful handling at this speed because, at times, the unusual phrase lengths can make the players lose track of where they are, and so care is needed. Everything reaches a considerable climax that then brings in the coda with five huge long chords over all the four parts.

There is an intriguing performance done virtually by the NAfME All- National Honor Guitar Ensemble on YouTube that aptly conveys the piece in all its glory. A worthwhile piece, which ensembles will thoroughly enjoy, although it is not too easy, so beware!


Chris Dumigan

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