Star Song II De Profundis
The village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a typical northern Provence village. Its houses cling to the hillside, nestling around a spectacular ravine scarring the mountains a few miles from the famous Gorges du Verdon. Dominating the village are two craggy pinnacles, between which is suspended a chain, 700 feet long, and carrying a huge metal star. No one knows its true origin; it has certainly been there since the 13th century, but probably much longer. Among the many legends that have inevitably sprung up around it the most popular concerns a local knight, Blacas d’Aups, who was captured by the Saracens whilst on a crusade to the Holy Land. He made a vow that if he were ever to return to his homeland, he would suspend his chain across the valley above Moustiers.
In 1991 I wrote La Légende de l’Étoile for Organ and Percussion. This extended work explored the legend in terms of a journey from from darkness to light. Each of the three movements was prefaced with words from the Psalms, and made extensive use of traditional songs and Gregorian chant. Since that time I have written a series of Star Songs, inspired by this and other legends associated with Moustiers, which further develop some of the musical and aesthetic ideas from the organ and percussion work.
The first of these was Star Song I for viola and piano which derived from the first movement - De Profundis Clamavi - of La Légende. Here I imagined the knight incarcerated in the depths of a great dungeon in some remote castle, struggling between moods of despair and hope, anger and resignation, and finally praying to his Lord for release and a chance to see his beloved homeland again. Star Song II is a reworking of the viola piece for cello and orchestra. Although the music is substantially the same, I have expanded several sections and broadened the whole range of the solo part. But the inspiration and message remain unchanged - the medieval knight’s struggle to maintain faith through the long hours of darkness and despair is an image that is all too potent in the so-called civilised world of the late 20th century, and is mirrored throughout the modern world in the lives of prisoners of conscience and political or religious persecution. It is this image and the need for true justice which concern me here.
© Christopher Brown 2005