A time before the dream
a theatre piece for actors, singers and dancers

Composition Date: 1981
Duration: 01:00:00
Genre: Solo Voice, With Full Orchestra

Instrumentation:

Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 3 x Flute
  • 1 x Oboe
  • 2 x Clarinet
  • 1 x Bassoon
  • 1 x Horn
  • 1 x Trumpet
  • 1 x Trombone
  • 1 x Tuba
  • 3 x Percussion
  • 1 x Piano
  • 1 x Unspecified bowed strings
Instrumentation Set Number 2:
  • 1 x Mezzo Soprano
  • 1 x Tenor
  • 1 x Women's chorus
  • 1 x Mixed chorus
  • 1 x Full orchestra
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Programme Note:
My largest work, "A Time Before the Dream", was commissioned by the University of Lethbridge for the Grand Opening of the University's new major Centre for the Arts in 1981. Playwright and Professor of Drama, Richard Epp, and I collaborated on the creation of a Theatre Piece which sought to integrate fully drama and music rather than use music as a mere incidental feature. Thus of the four principal leads in the play, 2 are speaking roles and 2 are singing roles, one male/one female each. Furthermore a women's choir is used as a "Greek chorus" and the work is divided equally between musical numbers and straight dramatic scenes; duration: one hour with music and one hour without, alternating throughout, with all leads sharing scenes as well.
We sought to reflect the "meaning" of the University (our own and by extension any seat of learning) by making our point of departure the University motto: Fiat Lux. Thus the play reflects on the Prometheus legend of the gift of fire to man, set against a drama of a post-modern city-state at war, and the responsibility of the "custodian of knowledge" to enlighten the populace to seek a state of peace, aided by a young woman's self-sacrifice and the "vision" of an elderly blind woman. The women's choir appears in scenes which reflect the best aspirations of mankind, and alternately its worst horrors.
Compositionally the largest part of the work is in an expanded tonal style, but serialism is used to represent elements of pre-enlightenment, most notably in the preludes to Acts I and II. Recitative, aria, duet, and ensemble numbers occur throughout the work. Only one scene out of the eight is without music. The "flame/light" motif is carried further by musical quotations from two medieval conducti which reference bright celestial bodies and the promise that they represent.
As a composer I further sought to join "town and gown" by using the Lethbridge Symphony and the Linnets Women's choir from the community in combination with University musical performers, including the first graduate of the B. Mus. program, then already a successful opera singer (Marcia Swanston).
Midway in the creative process, then University President, Dr. John Woods, made a decision which resulted in the full work never being staged, the Grand Opening of the Centre instead being given to the 1981 honorary degree recipients, Liona Boyd and Sir Peter Ustinov.
However the Lethbridge Symphony Associate made "A Time Before the Dream" a principal project and placed it on its main series, February 22, 1982. Thus although the complete play was never done, the work receive instead a premiere as a Suite of the musical numbers from the play under the title Promethean Scenes featuring the playwright, Richard Epp as narrator, with solo vocalists Marcia Swanston, mezzo-soprano (as the old woman) and John Keane, tenor (in the dual role of the Keeper of the Flame/the Custodian of Knowledge) with the Linnets Women's choir (Anne Campbell, director) and the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra conducted by Stewart Grant.

Commissioned by: The University of Lethbridge

Premiere Information:
February 22, 1982
Yates Centre
Lethbridge
NOTE: The Suite version, AKA - PROMETHEAN SCENES, was the Musical Premiere and is of one hour duration. Narrated by the Playwright Richard Epp, and featuring Marcia Swanston (mezzo-soprano) as the Old Woman, and John Keane (tenor) in the dual role of Keeper of the Flame and the Custodian of Knowledge, with the Linnets (Women's Choir), and the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra.
Conductor: Stewart Grant

CATALOGUE INFO:

  • Call Number:
  • MV 1400 J13ti
  • Genre:
  • Solo Voice, With Full Orchestra
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • February 8, 2010
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • 1 score (286 p.) ;
    286 Pages
    Height: 28 cm
    Width: 22 cm
    Parts page count: 345
    parts available (rental only)
  • Additional Information:
  • Actors - two leads m/f
    Vocalists - two leads m/f
    12 additional speaking roles
    The Chorus (Women's choir)
    Crowd and Police - 10 actors
    Dancers 6 (3m/3f)
    Staged play - Pit Orchestra
    "Suite" version - full Symphony Orchestra

    Note: Parts are available only for the 'suite' version, also known as Promethean Scenes, which omits much of the narration and two musical numbers.
    Act I in 5 scenes
    Act II in 3 scenes
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