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. On the positive side, I was encouraged and guided by Malcolm Forsyth (d. 2011), my thesis advisor, a composer of fine and vigourous music which I continue to admire and for whom I had copied parts (in pen and ink, in the days before computers).

    This work was inspired both by the evocative poetry of Africa and by an Ivory Coast folksong that I had on a vinyl recording. The texts range 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, and this 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 was to appear again later in its original form in my Suite of Orchestral Dances, second movement; while part 3 of The Shrine of Kotje became the basis for my Meditation for Cello and Piano. And as an afterthought, I composed Three African Songs for high voice and piano, on poems I had discovered but had not used in this cantata.

    The Shrine of Kotje 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

If you wish to view the opening movement of the score, please click in the box above or visit the Canadian Music Centre website for the full score. 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.