Mothers’ Suite, Sweet Mothers

Extraordinary women are all around us.  Our friends, our sisters, but most especially, our mothers.  In 2022, Camille Barry, Kellee Green and I recorded a new work for ABC Classic, for violin and piano, in five movements, inspired by mothers. I composed the work while Camille and Kellee who performed it; they are two wonderful musicians who are mothers.

This music is, down to its very core, inspired by those extraordinary women, and is an homage to their strength, courage, wisdom, insight, gentleness and passion.  Like the stories of the women it reflects, it isn’t without its moments of frailty, challenge, confusion, guilt, anger and passion.  Mother’s Suite, Sweet Mothers is in five movements, each movement representing an episode in the life mother and child:

Movement 1:  Overwhelmed 

This is music for the very beginning of the journey.  In the hospital, or maybe those first few hours at home, where this new person is here, suddenly.  Utterly wonderous and utterly overwhelming all at once.  The mum is new to this, and there is great joy, beauty but on the edge of her control, into a new world.  You will hear, at the end, a statement of the infant’s theme, which is the key to the whole work.  It is a palindrome and represents cycles

Movement 2:  Wonderland 

A little later, the mum and child are beginning to venture out.  Things are still capricious, with new experiences every day.  The child notices things we have forgotten – tiny flowers, or seeing patterns in leaves.  The baby likes to be silly but is always getting hurt (you can hear the baby fall over in this music!).  The mum is there to comfort them, and shares in the child’s heartfelt sorrow, but quickly we come back to calm thanks to the mum’s graceful soothing.  In this music, there is a figure in the violin which means “there, there,” or the calming words of the mother, reassuring the child. 

Movement 3:  Anger and Guilt 

Yet, we parents get it wrong, all the time.  There are things we’d liked to have done differently.  We’ll never stop those emotions that flood back when we think about it.  And also, there is frustration.  Trying again and again to do something the “right” way.  But even here, there is a kind of release, when we allow ourselves to let it go.  Kellee and I, on a relaxed afternoon, listen to the magpie families.  Right near the end of this movement, you’ll hear the repeated call of a baby magpie as it again and again implores its parent for food. 

Movement 4: Love

There are many kinds of love, aren’t there?  This music is for the innermost.  It’s music for all mothers, all parents, but it is also an homage for parents who have lost a child, or suffered with a child.  The kind of love that cannot be spoken of, a cosmic love, an unknowable intensity which is our reason for existing, and we hope the music can be where no words can be. 

Movement 5: Letting Go 

Camille has a young daughter, and Kellee and I have older boys.  So together we can see the span of the journey (well, the first journey)!  At the end of this first journey, we look back across the years, and feel so grateful, yet melancholy, because this is the end of our road with little children.  We have watched them grow, seen them grow into themselves, and now we know it’s time for us to let them go, so they can continue to grow.  Our music concludes with a restatement of the infant’s theme (introduced in Movement 1), and a bittersweet acknowledgment and inexpressible gratitude for our experiences with our children.

This music is available as video from YouTube (above), and the audio may be listened to at via all major streaming platforms.

This was premiered at the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival, and is to be performed again at the Queensland Conservatorium on August 9, 2023.

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