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A Dramatic Narrative

Duration: c. 11 minutes








Programme Notes:

The garden at Gethsemane is located on a slope of the Mount of Olives just outside the City of Jerusalem. The name means ‘oil-press’ in Hebrew and a garden of ancient olive trees stands there to this day. Jesus often went there with His disciples to pray and it was to prove the scene of His arrest – the garden where He was betrayed – on the night before His crucifixion. Each of the four Gospel writers describes the events with minor variations and from these sometimes slender accounts we can arrive at an accurate picture of that momentous night. This dramatic narrative portrays this story in a brief and highly contrasting musical setting. There are a total of fifteen separate but linked sections that provide the whole and each is given a subtitle as a form of reference. These help the performers realise the overall concept and also assist listeners to follow the journey of the drama. They comprise:


1. Prologue

This sets the scene with four antiphonal trumpets placed offstage evoking the atmosphere of an ancient city awakening.


2. The Garden

The Gethsemane motif is first heard in tuned percussion representing various bells. There is also a second motif that provides a reference to the Garden at various points throughout the work.


3. Procession

After the Passover feast Jesus and the disciples come to the Garden.


4. Vigil

Three of these disciples are asked to watch over Him and pray they will not fall into temptation.


5. Temptation

The anguish of the disciples who cannot remain awake.


6. Agony

Jesus tries to come to terms with His destiny.


7. The Angel

God sends an angel from Heaven to give Him strength.


8. Betrayed

Judas Iscariot arrives with His enemies. He betrays Jesus with a kiss.


9. Arrest

Jesus is taken prisoner.


10. Attack

Peter attacks one of the aggressors and cuts off his ear.


11. Miracle

Jesus miraculously heals the man’s ear.


12. Flight

The disciples scatter in fear of their lives.


13. Alone …

Jesus is now isolated.


14. The Garden

The earlier Garden music returns.


15. Epilogue

The antiphonal trumpets return offstage and fade into nothing – there only remains silence.



Piccolo, Flutes, Oboe, Cor Anglais, Eb Clarinet, Bb Clarinets 1.2.3, Bb Bass Clarinet, Bassoons 1.2, Contrabassoon,

Eb Alto Saxophones 1.2, Bb Tenor Saxophone, Eb Baritone Saxophone,

Bb Trumpets, F Horns, Trombones 1.2.3.Bass, Euphonium, Tubas 1.2,

Double Bass, Piano/Celesta, Harp

Timpani, Percussion


Percussion Requirements:

Perc 1: Tubular Bells, Ride Cymbal, Rattle, Claves


Perc. 2: 1st Glockenspiel, Xylophone (shared)


Perc. 3: Vibraphone, Clashed Cymbals, Bass Drum (shared), Wood Block (on stand)


Perc. 4: Bass Drum (shared), Side Drum, Xylophone (shared), Suspended Cymbal (placed nest to S.D.)


Perc. 5: Wobble Board, Mark-tree, Tenor Drum, 2nd Glockenspiel, Triangle, 3 Temple Blocks, Tam-tam


Perc. 6: Wobble Board, High Suspended Cymbal, Cow Bell, 1st Kazoo


Perc. 7: Wobble Board, 2 Bongoes, Low Suspended Cymbal, Bass Drum (shared), 2nd Kazoo, Guiro

Performance Notes:


  • The term ‘Wobble Board’ refers to rectangular strips of thick card that is pliable. They need to be fairly large to make an effective sound though they need not all be of the same size. The effect required is that of an ominous wind. It may be effective to have the three players distributed in different locations at the rear of the ensemble. Some experimentation will facilitate this effect.


  • The four solo trumpets that are placed off stage during the Prologue and Epilogue sections can also be experimented with as to the best positioning. This will be somewhat dependent on the concert hall in question. They are meant to represent distant fanfares at the beginning and close of a single day in an ancient city.


  • The first phrases heard in the Bells, Glockenspiel and Vibraphone are a musical cipher of the word ‘Gethsemane’ – GETH-SE-MA-NE therefore whenever this cell is encountered it needs to be given emphasis.


  • The Piano and Harp parts are important and need to be placed in a position where they can be heard to best advantage. Should a Celesta not be available the part can be played an octave higher on the Piano. Also if the Celesta cannot be placed close enough to the Piano then the section at the first four bars of Alone… can all be played on the Piano an octave higher.


  • The high muted Trombones in the Temptation section need to employ very metallic and ‘brittle’ sounding mutes to obtain the required sinister effect.


  • The pair of Kazoos at the close of the Agony section are meant to evoke precisely that: an agonising effect!


  • The longest section Betrayal is meant to be an ethereal sound canvas during the parts that include vocal contributions. These vocal parts, which are included in all the parts except those of the Piano and Harp, are spoken not sung. The effect is to be unemotional, dry and distant. They are separated into two groups of male and female voices and are to be executed by those members of the band who are not engaged in actual playing or can (for example percussionists) both speak and play. Also any additional players may fulfil these spoken texts.


  • The Rattle at the start of Attack is like a football rattle – quite menacing!


  • The Flight section should be performed as quietly as possible.


  • The String Bass (Double Bass) can be subtly amplified if deemed appropriate.


  • The silence bar at the close of the work is part of the piece so everyone in the ensemble should remain quiet and not move for a dignified duration deemed apt by the conductor.


  • It is permissible to perform this piece along with projected images depicting or reflecting on the various sections of the work. Obviously this would require further collaboration and some careful selection of the images. This may also serve to take the audience on the journey and help them ‘locate’ the various sections of the work.

Available Recordings:

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