by Malene Sheppard Skaerved
Malene Sheppard Skaerved writes about her work:
I. THE MOST DANGEROUS THING
Across time, cultures, nations, we share one memory: we are all born by a mother. Ironically this universal experience is unremembered, often ignored, considered taboo, inappropriate, too dirty to discuss.
Childbirth is miraculous and perilous. It has killed many women and infants throughout history. It still kills. It ought to be commemorated.
This movement uses data from an actual birth (my son) woven with the history of childbirth, and with the memories of deities who protected fearful women from its danger. It finishes with a lullaby, perhaps the only completely female oral tradition, sung to babies of all cultures.
`Christina’s Memory Garden’ is dedicated to singer and aspiring scientist: Christina Ippoliti, cornet & trumpet player: Harmen Vanhoorne, conductor: Matthew J. George and the University of St Thomas Wind Ensemble in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
In the honour of the soprano, Christina Ippoliti, the piece explores historical Christinas, and pays homage to both famous and anonymous women, their stories and choices. Prominently featured, are Queen Kristina of Sweden (1626-1689), Andrew Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World (1948) and unknown Christinas telling their stories.
Queen Christina of Sweden (`Drottning Kristina av Sverige’) was an extraordinary woman (1626 – 1689). She was a great life-force, a wit and highly intelligent. But most significantly, she did as she pleased. At times, the consequences of this were severe, but not because of her sex. Her father, King Gustavus Adolphus the Great,defender of the protestant faith through the 30 year war, changed Swedish law to make her Queen. But by 28, tired of Sweden, Christina abdicated and travelled to Rome where she converted to Catholicism. She is one of only three women buried in Saint Peter‘s in Rome. Her life veered between the inspirational and disastrous. She was susceptible to flattery and was often cheated, and once had a servant killed in a manner that shocked her contemporaries, even in her blood-soaked age. She spent money she did not have, but loved Art, Music and Science. In defiance of Pope Sixtus V, she let women perform on stage. She is remembered as an early prototype for modern woman.
III. THE CLIMATE RAG-DOGGEREL
We all live on one planet, humans and animals together. Whatever happens to the Earth, both natural and manmade disasters, affects us all, no matter what we believe. We humans can both create and destroy; often we forget we are not the only inhabitants of this world. In the future, how will we choose to live? Who will we be? In this final movement, the animals come up with some answers. Humans are stupid, they sing (Often I wonder – is that true?). Animals and the humans sing together, about the Environment, Knowledge, Art, reminding us that we all make important, consequential choices, every day. Life may be universal but as the privileged few, we have a duty to live it responsibly, dutifully, carefully. We hope that we might leave the Earth a better place for all, animals and humans alike.
Malene Sheppard Skærved
About The Music
I have had the great privilege to have recently soundscaped, Malene Sheppard Skaerved’s operatic melodrama `Christina’s Memory Garden’. My function as the composer, has been very much the same as if scoring for a feature film – The music is always secondary, functional and has to be at all times loyal to the script. Often in a stage-drama or film, music is at it’s best when it goes unnoticed, camouflaged and intertwines and melds with the story. It has often been said that John Williams score to `Star Wars’ is that of a `space opera’ – Though this drama, is not set “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”, I have gone with this tried and tested approach to scoring `Christina’s Memory Garden’. While Malene’s script leads throughout, the backcloth of music is an artistic device to reflect, pre-empt and comment on the drama at hand. It would be true to say, that the music takes on the role of an invisible-actor, gently encouraging the audience to respond to the writer/creators thoughts, ideas stories and emotions. `Christina’s Memory Garden’ was commissioned by the University of St Thomas faculty member, Dr Thomas Ippoliti. I am thrilled that Malene’s drama features two soloists’ throughout, Soprano Christina Ippoliti and Cornet/Trumpet player Harmen Vanhoorne. Nigel Clarke