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prayer for clear weather

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prayer for clear weather - variations on an Omaha Indian song

John Alexander writes: 'In 2012, I was composing a five movement mixed ensemble piece for amateur musicians, called 'daughters of earth and water', based on the idea of rain-bearing clouds being associated in some way with our senses. Each movement in that work had a brief quotation from pre-written music concerning wet weather - a Chopin Prelude, a couple of children's playground songs, a snippet from Beethoven's 6th - when I came across 'prayer for clear weather' in 'A Study of Omaha Indian Music' of 1893 by the anthropologist Alice C. Fletcher that included a collection of 92 songs. It was exactly what I had been looking for to embed in the central movement of that piece, 'feels like rain (nimbostratus). The selected song, 'prayer...' was also a piece of music that began to track a path into the aurally receptive part of my brain, to the extent that I thought I'd relish composing a set of variations - passacaglia-like, perhaps - around it.

After the theme is quietly proclaimed (pizzicato), there follow eight variations. The 'song' uses a simple pentatonic scale. This is possibly most noticeable in variation 7, where the song's melody is stripped of its repeating notes as well as notes that have already been previously sounded - an idea mooted in variation 6 -, leaving only the bare 5 note scale, here interlocking between (yet transposed in) each part. This work on an Omaha Indian song lasts about five and a half minutes, and I am very happy to dedicate it to Bill Ritchie.


prayer for clear weather was premiered by Bill Ritchie and three of his colleagues from the Omaha Symphony Orchestra - Will Clifton, Jeremy Baguyos, and James Giles - on 20 May 2013, as part of the 20th annual Spring Bass Bash Recital, organized by Omaha Symphony bassist Bill Ritchie, at the Presbyterian Church of the Cross in Omaha (Nebraska).

It received its UK premiere on 8 June 2013 at Wells Cathedral School (Somerset, UK) by David Heyes, Nic Lum, Joe Prindl and Josie Jobbins.


John Alexander was born in West Sussex in 1942 and began to compose at the age of 20. At the time he discovered a fascination for art, literature, dance, architecture and sculpture and these topics, along with mathematics, have continued to have a bearing on his work. He studied composition with Edmund Rubbra at the Guildhall School of Music in London, and later with Jonathan Harvey and Peter Wiegold at the University of Sussex.

John Alexander has never been a prolific composer, but an impressive and growing body of work reflects a rare eye for detail and structure - each work beautifully crafted and reworked until every inflection, detail and nuance is perfect. Probably best described as a miniaturist, he writes in a fluent, independent and strongly personal style with an intense desire to create music which communicates to both performer and audience alike.

In 1999 John Alexander won the 1st BIBF Composition Contest and was invited to be a judge for several BIBF competitions. He was a featured composer at Bass-Fest 2001, was an spnm short-listed composer for three years, and was Composer-in-residence at the 2004 Rotterdam Conservatoire Double Bass Weekend, Bass-Fest 2006 and 2007 Wells Double Bass Weekend. His works have been performed and broadcast throughout the world and he was written an impressive and unique body of work for double bass.

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Cat No. RM614
Supplier Code RM614
Price £10.50
ComposerJohn Alexander
CategoryDouble Bass Quartet
PublisherRecital Music
Difficulty level6 - 8, Advanced
ISMN 979-0-57045-614-7
EAN-13 9790570456147
Weight 98 grams
Published 1st July 2013
Availability 8 in stock
See also...
RM594  unquiet air
RM660  no plan B (DOUBLE BASS ENSEMBLE)