Cory Band, conducted by Robert Childs
(Doyen DOY CD188)
By kind permission of Doyen Recordings

Aurora is the third part of my large-scale Gaia Symphony, a four part work for brass band composed over a period of some twelve years. Like its companion works, Tsunami (Part One) Wildfire (Part Two) and Men of Stone (Part Four), it can be performed as a separate concert item, but is heard to best advantage in the context of the other parts, each of which is loosely related to one of the four Classical elements – Water, Fire, Air and Earth.

The title refers to the phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis, sometimes called the “Northern Lights” (there is also a southern polar equivalent, the Aurora Australis, but unlike their northern rivals I have not personally witnessed those. This piece may therefore be considered exclusively Nordic in its inspiration). They are caused by atomic particles ejected from the sun, directed by the Earth’s magnetic field towards its poles, then tumbling down through the Earth’s atmosphere. Aurorae can range from a strange luminous glow in the northern sky to spectacular displays in higher latitudes where “…they light up the sky with a splendid brilliance which drives away the winter darkness, often taking on weird and beautiful shapes: twisting flames, weaving curtains of cold fire. No words can do justice to their beauty.” (Larousse Encyclopedia of Astronomy)

I have attempted to use the image of these twisting and turning curtains of light and to realise this in sound. All the instruments in the band are here treated as soloists and this offers enormous potential to create subtly shifting colours and textures. The music also tries to convey something of the calmness and beauty of this miraculous phenomenon in an extended slow movement that is very much the emotional heart of the Gaia Symphony.

Aurora was commissioned by the Welsh Amateur Music Federation jointly for the National Youth Brass Band of Wales and the “Buy As You View Cory Band”. It was composed 2003, during my time as Composer in Residence to the Cory Band and is dedicated to them.

John Pickard