THE HALIFAX EXPLOSION
A choral composition.
Written and composed by Mary Knickle
Performers: SATB Choir, Children's Choir, Jon-Paul Decosse in role Vincent Coleman and Hannah Ernst as Morse Code
Conductor: Wayne Rogers
Accompanist: Dean Bradshaw
Featured with Gabriel Fauré's requiem "From the Ashes"
The Halifax Explosion is a 15 minute, choral piece in five movements. The first movement opens as a busy Halifax Harbour. As the piece continues each movement is a different part of the story and as the events around and after the explosion are revealed, the composer uses words and music, lights, pictures and other innovative methods to create a compelling, heart wrenching and in the end triumphant tale of human strength and determination.
After finishing the Seafarers’ Requiem Mary discovered that 2018 would be the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion. She is passionate about Nova Scotia history and immediately began gathering research and reading as much information as possible at the library and through other sources. The result is a 10 - 15 minute choral piece on the Halifax Explosion that premiered this December 6th, 2017 at St. Matthews Church in Halifax.
The choral work is the story of the explosion using music, sounds, film and lights. The Halifax Explosion takes the listener on a journey. In the beginning as each voice enters the sound is a wash of different rhythms, notes and stories and does feel like a busy 1917 Halifax morning a few weeks before Christmas. One by one the voices begin to match each other as a burning ship is spotted and eventually join as one voice watching the scene. Above this rises the voice of Vincent Coleman, the telegraph operator, as he stays at his post sacrificing his life to warn the next train arriving in Halifax.
The organ plays the lowest note it can that creates a low rumble. With bright lights the explosion happens. After silence and the soft wind made by the singers, children’s voices rise in note clusters singing a psalm; then an almost Bach-like choral on Ah with visual images of children that survived the explosion. A rising triumph follows singing of strength and determination to rebuild the city. Finally a slow and calm prayer that crescendo’s to a closing finale.
The Halifax Explosion is a combination of original libretto, old psalms and poems and original music that depict the story of the explosion and will be a lasting piece of work that can be performed in the future for other choruses. It is written for SATB and children’s chorus. The instrumentation is primarily piano with organ for parts of the piece.