The Dawn Comes Up Like Thunder
Poem for Orchestra (2003/4)
by Ron Hannah

Duration: about 6' 30"

    The title is from Kipling's Mandalay, a poem that has haunted me for many years, ever since I read it as a child. It suggests all the mystery and majesty of the East, and I still "hear" that sunrise and feel that majesty. China is a land that you love or you hate, and

having lived there for over 2 years, and having spent more time wandering throughout Southeast Asia, I am a lover. As the poem says, If you've 'eard the East a-callin', you won't never 'eed naught else. Living there has its challenges, of course, yet the bureaucratic hassles and the invasion of Western business and Western ways somehow have not damped my romance with China and with Asia, though I look with dismay at the average Chinese as he chain-smokes and strives pointlessly for that car or tv set.

    If Kipling's poem is one source for this piece, another is the sunrise scene from Daphnis and Chlöe. Ravel's treatment is slow and majestic, evoking the slowly lightening sky and the final appearance of the day. Mine begins with a quick, birdlike and chromatic theme in the woodwinds which builds over several pages to a big crescendo as the sun finally appears. Does my sunrise rival Ravel's? You decide. Click on the strip below to hear a fairly realistic (a friend called it "evocative") computer realization of the score. One day I hope to replace that Logic Pro version with a recording made by a live orchestra - conductors, take note.

- THE DAWN COMES UP LIKE THUNDER - Logic Pro simulation -

    Following the sunrise, I was stuck for some way to continue. I wasn't following a narrative as Ravel had been, so I had no story to fall back on. However, in my Chinese travels I encountered (and even wrote for) many unfamiliar instruments. One of the most exciting is a simple double-reed trumpet called a suona horn. It resembles a snake charmer's instrument. I even found a recording entitled One Hundred Birds Worshipping the Phoenix, a wildly improvisational piece perfectly suited to that instrument. I spent a long time transcribing it and gave it to the piccolo and the oboe in my score, thus my poem for orchestra had sufficient thematic material at last, and my apologies to the oboe player but I believe it is quite playable! Modern players have a way of surprising me, and I don't worry too much about writing a difficult part after this comment from a violinist when I placed a new piece in front of her asking if it was playable: "Hmf," she said, "Everything's playable!" Besides, I'm a woodwind player myself, so I have a pretty good idea of what can be done.

    This is surely the most travelled of my works. It was begun in Suzhou, near Shanghai, in early 2003, and during the following spring my partner and I went on a backpacking tour of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos, before returning to China where it was finally finished. Parts of this manuscript were thus written on tropical beaches, beneath coconut palms. Only later did I learn that in Vietnam, 50 people per year are killed by falling coconuts.

    The orchestra is as follows:

  • 1 flute
  • 1 piccolo
  • 2 oboes
  • 2 clarinets in Bb
  • 2 bassoons
  • 4 horns in F
  • 2 trumpets
  • 2 trombones
  • 1 bass trombone
  • 1 percussionist
  • 1 timpanist
  • Strings
  •      To obtain the full score please click on the button above, and the parts may be obtained by sending me an email or through the Canadian Music Centre.