River Prayer

Mountains and rivers, the whole earth,
All manifest forth the essence of being.

riverPrayerAdelaide2004River Prayer is a musically wild and beautiful tour of our rivers, “the veins of our land, flowing from mountain to sea”. Questing Spirit perform Australian, Japanese and Baroque works which have a connection with nature, specifically highlighting the importance of our waterways. Central to the programme is a suite of short works by Melbourne composer Dindy Vaughan, each focused on a different river.

Questing Spirit are interested in multi-media collaborations with local artists in the towns they visit. In Adelaide (2004) they performed Dindy's suite with projections of images of Australian rivers taken by environmental photographer Neil McLoud. In Hobart (2004) they performed Rameau's Gavotte and Variations with projections of images of Mt Wellington compiled by Greg Lehman. Images were drawn from the Peter Dombrowskis collection and the archives of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and the private collection of photographer and painter, Greg Hind. Children’s drawings were provided by Charlotte, Kate (x2), Lucy and Gus from Landsdowne Crescent School.

River Prayer Repertoire

Mountain Valley (San'ya) - traditional honkyoku for shakuhachi

From the early 1600s, shakuhachi was used as a tool for meditation by Komuso (the Priests of Nothingness) who wandered the Japanese countryside from temple to temple. We open this concert with a meditation on the mountains and valleys, and create a space where we may enter into a time of reflection.

Jean-Philippe Rameau - gavotte and variations (1728, arr. Norman 2001)

Written for solo harpsichord in 1728 by Jean-Philippe Rameau, this Gavotte is followed by six variations, each one more elaborate and lively than the previous, featuring virtuosic passages for the harpsichordist. Inspired by this beautiful piece, Anne wrote a shakuhachi accompaniment which sparingly supports and highlights the soloistic harpsichord lines.

Distant Cry (traditional zen duet, arr. Hagen/Norman 1998)

An arrangement of the famous shakuhachi duo 'Shika no Tone', Peter has developed harpsichord performance techniques to meet the micro-tonal & subtle timbral demands of the music. Originally said to depict two deer standing atop separate mountain tops calling to one another, upon hearing this arrangement, Japanese dancer , Machiko Kaneko, observed that it felt to her as 'The Cry of Nature and Humanity's Response'.

Dindy Vaughan - Prayer for Restoration of our Rivers (2001-03)

Six movement suite composed for Questing Spirit (shakuhachi & harpsichord)

The movements of this suite are named after Victorian rivers with which Dindy has a special relationship. The first movement, Lacrymae, is "a lament for the degradation and destruction of our rivers, the life blood of the land". Dindy has selected photos by celebrated photographer Neil McLoud to accompany this performance. They are not of the specific rivers which title the movements, but rather reflect the meaning and spirit of her work. "The philosophy behind 'Prayer for the Restoration of our Rivers' presents the concept of 'an earth created for mankind's exclusive use and proprietorship', as misguided and destructive. As we assess the damage we have wreaked around us, we begin for the first time to lose confidence in our arrogant superiority and understand that we are only a small part of a created whole."

  • (i) Lacrymae
    (ii) Pound Bend - Yarra River
    (iii) Murray River – Pental Island, Swan Hill
    (iv) Goulburn River
    (v) Wimmera River - Lake Hindmarsh
    (vi) Snowy River

Ros Bandt - Drifts in Sand (1977)

Solo shakuhachi

Jill Lowe - Butterflies ~ reflections over water (2002)

Composed for Questing Spirit (shakuhachi & harpsichord)

Handel - Water Music (1715)

Handel's Water Music serenaded George I in 1715 at a river-party on the Thames with up to 50 musicians performing on floating barges. Tonight's performance includes three movements from the Horn Suite in F Major and the Trumpet Suite In D Major. Based on an arrangement for solo harpsichord by Geminiani, it is performed by Questing Spirit on shakuhachi & harpsichord.


Miyagi Michio - Spring Sea (1929)

Composed in 1929 as a duo for shakuhachi and koto (a 13 string zither), it has since been performed all over the world in various arrangements including violin & piano and flute & orchestra. Tonight it is performed on harpsichord & shakuhachi. This work was composed in a style which combines European and traditional Japanese compositional techniques by the leading koto performer & composer of the early 20th century.