The Shrine of Kotje
for SATB and Orchestra (1975, rev. 2010)
by Ron Hannah

Words: Contemporary African poets
Duration: about 18 minutes

    The texts for this secular Cantata are African, and Kotje is an African god. The poets are: Leopold Senghor (former President of Senegal), Birago Diop (Senegal), David Diop (Senegal), Dennis Brutus (South Africa), Chinua Achebe (Nigeria), Bernard Dadié (Ivory Coast); and Malick Fall (Senegal). This was my Master's thesis composition, and to the shame of the University of Alberta Music Department, it has never been performed.

    It was inspired both by the evocative poetry of Africa and by an Ivory Coast folksong that I had on a vinyl recording. The song appears in some guise or other in each of the 10 sections of the work, which are played without a break. The little tune appeared later in its original form in my Suite of Orchestral Dances, second movement; and part 3 of The Shrine of Kotje, entitled "Diptych", also became the basis for my Meditation for Cello and Piano. In addition, I composed Three African Songs for high voice and piano, on poems I had discovered but had not used in this cantata. Another strong influence was that of Malcolm Forsyth (d. 2011), my thesis advisor, a composer whose music I admired and for whom I had copied parts.

    It requires about 18 minutes to perform and exhibits my own style of free-ranging and dissonant tonality. The orchestral forces are as follows:     2,2,2,2; 4,2,3, tuba; timp, 4 perc.; piano; SATB; strings

    The texts move from some of the most poetic landscape painting I have ever encountered, to the emergence of free and proud mankind, to sadness at the destruction of a culture. At the risk of ranting, my own culture is, in my opinion, being destroyed or at least undermined by those to whom copyright law has become a way of attacking others in order to make money. I dislike this attitude intensely and realize fully that in refusing to comply with it I run the risk of not getting performances. I am patient however, and if orchestras are reluctant to play this work and make themselves vulnerable to copyright vultures, I understand. My music will still be there when the vultures have departed or when the poems enter the public domain. Besides, what does a poor composer do when the publisher to whom he writes requesting copyright clearance fails to respond?

If you wish to view the score, please click in the box above or visit the Canadian Music Centre website. Parts may be obtained by sending me an email (below) or through the CMC, but you must promise to inform me of any performances so that I can keep this website up-to-date.