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Written during a Fellowship from the Australia Council, which I was awarded in 1999, my Etude for solo viola was composed for Esther van Stralen, who had given terrific performances of my Viola Concerto with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra a few years before.
Like my Antiphon for solo viola, Caritas for Australian violist Sheelah Treflé Hidden to perform at the John Main Seminar held annually by the World Community for Christian Meditation, who commissioned the work. On this occasion the theme of the seminar was '‘The Spirit in the Desert', and it was held at St Ignatius, Riverview in Sydney in July 2001.
The work is based on the plainchant hymn Ubi caritas et amor (Where there is charity and love, there God is also), whose tune is heard in its entirety at the end of the piece. Before that, the work passes through a series of contrasting states, representing certain sounds - thunder, surf, bees and bells, and so on - which devotees of Krishna hear in their deepest meditative states as a sign of his presence.
The Warlpiri people of Central Australia tell a story about a great rainstorm that travelled across part of their country, creating the features of the landscape, the plants, animals and people as it went.
Parardi (the Warlpiri word for rainbow) is a response to this story. The opening section is slow, with rather disembodied fragments of melody and rhythm - the calm, as it were, before the storm. The central section is fast and violent, with lots of irregular metres (bars of 5/16 and 7/16 for instance), ‘scrubbing’ on the viola and use of the percussive lower register of the piano. The final section is a transformation of the first, as you might expect in a (rainbow) arch-form: this time the fragments have turned into fully fledged melodies.
Parardi was equal winner of the Bernard Shore Prize Awarded by the Royal Over-Seas League, London in 1988. It was first performed by Marco van Pagee and Stephen McIntyre at the Melbourne Spoleto Festival in 1989.