Instrumentation 2/2/2/2; 2/2/2/0; timp + 1 perc; SSATB choir; orchestral strings
Percussion requirements snare dr, bass dr, med. tam-tam

Timing ca. 5’30”

Composed 2018

Texts by Leslie Coulson, Albert-Paul Granier, Jack Stratford and Franz Marc, adapted by Jeffrey Ryan with R.H. Thomson

Commissioned by Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra (Alexander Shelley, Music Director) and The World Remembers in honour of the Centennial of the Great War

World Premiere November 11, 2018, National Arts Centre, Ottawa, Ontario. Chorale De La Salle, Canterbury Choral Ensemble and the University of Ottawa Choral Ensemble with the German Youth Orchestra Bundesjugendsorchester and members of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada; Alexander Shelley, conductor

Programme Notes

La guerre est dure comme une tempête…

Song of the Soldiers is a short work for choir and orchestra commissioned to mark the centenary of the end of World War I. The texts are drawn from the writings of four WWI soldiers and focus primarily on fragments from letters by Canadian Jack Stratford and German Franz Marc. One returned home, the other died in battle. Though they never met, their words contrast and complement each other while running in tandem and frequently intertwining, with Jack sung by the tenors and Franz sung by the basses. The sopranos and altos act as a kind of Greek chorus, singing from afar the words of the French soldier Albert-Paul Granier. Underneath, the orchestra marches deliberately forward, slowly building in mass and volume, until the sound explodes. The full choir comes together in British soldier Leslie Coulson’s famous Who Made the Law?, the question asked repeatedly in English, French and German, until we hear a final good-bye from the letter-writers.


Song of the Soldiers, by Vancouver’s Jeffrey Ryan, with lyrics drawn from soldiers’ letters home, reflected the youth of those who fought in its use of boys’ voices, set against a majestic bottom end and the echo of marching drums. (Lynn Saxberg/Ottawa Sun)

PDF perusal score

Song of the Soldiers perusal

Audio excerpt

Chorale De La Salle, Canterbury Choral Ensemble, the University of Ottawa Choral Ensemble, the German Bundesjugendsorchester with members of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, conducted by Alexander Shelley

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