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Gwyn Pritchard: Lollay, Lollay
Cor anglais, bass clarinet, viola, ‘cello, piano, percussion

The title 'Lollay, Lollay' is taken from a 14th century poem, in which a mother reflects on the suffering and despair that her child will inevitably meet in life; and also on man's inability to escape suffering and death. The first two stanzas of the poem, in a literal modern English translation, read as follows:

Lollay, lollay, little child, why do you weep so sorely?
You must indeed weep - it was ordained for you of old
To live always in sorrow and sighing and evermore grieve
As your forefathers once did, while they were alive.
      Lollay, lollay, little child! child lollay, lullow.
     Thus have you come into a strange world.

These beasts and birds, the fish in the sea,
And every living creature made of bone and blood
When they are first born can do some things for themselves -
All save the wretched brat who is of Adam's blood.
      Lollay, lollay, little child! you are for sorrow bound;
      You know not of the wild ways of this world which awaits you.

The poem's gloomy view of life is suggested by the sombre nature of the music, in particular by its instrumentation, but the parallels between the poem and the music run deeper than mere similarity of mood. The poem is a perverted lullaby, and all the musical material of the piece is related, however distantly, to traditional lullaby rhythms and melodies that are essentially 'rocking' in character. However, traditional elements are subtly distorted and transformed thereby creating a piece which is only reminiscent of lullabies without being one in itself.

The first performance of the piece was given in 1984 by Uroboros Ensemble, conducted by the composer.

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