Tide Pools

1990 10 minutes
Choir SATB, speaker, piano and percussion
 Old Conservatory, Zurich

Old Conservatory, Zurich

Tide Pools for choir (SATB), piano, speaker and some small percussion—dedicated to Brigitte (who shares my passion for Tide Pools).

Tide Pools was suggested by Willi Gohl, a piece with a New Zealand flavour, which would show various choral techniques:

  • madrigal style (1. Sea Squirts),
  • spoken chorus (2. Starfish),
  • improvisation (3. Octopus).
  • To this I have added a dramatic movement (4. Mussels) in which pitch is free but rhythm is very important
  • and a burlesque (5. Gastropods) which makes fun of a well known New Zealand tune “Now is the Hour”.

The work shows a certain amount of nostalgia on my (and Brigitte's) part for the New Zealand foreshore and the animals which live there. The text-fragments were taken from R. K. Dell's book, Seashore Life, (Reed, 1981) and from Margaret Orbell's The Natural World of the Maori, page 28, (Bateman 1985) - 4. Mussels. Although Willi GohI, the conductor, suggested a choral work, he is also Willi GohI the pianist. Therefore the piano plays an important role in these pieces. He also proposed some small percussion. I imagine the percussion part being played by a member (or members) of the chorus. Instruments required are: claves (1. Sea Squirts), a maraca (2. Starfish), a small gong. (3. Octopus), a tambourine (4. Mussels) and the same four instruments again in 5. Gastropods. The Speaker also plays a very important part in Tide Pools. I see him/her as a soloist standing in front of the choir and playing the role of a rather serious teacher, who doesn't seem to notice the occasional funny side of what he/she is saying.

The above lines were written more than 20 years ago. Willi Gohl (1925-2010), famous in Switzerland as a choral conductor and music educator, has in the meantime died. Whether he actually toured New Zealand as he had planned I never heard, nor whether he performed Tide Pools there or elsewhere. Now I have made a complete revision of the work removing the improvisatory passages (especially from 3. Octopus) and in general making it more accessible to general choirs.
Performing the spoken part of Tide Pools at a concert for my 80th birthday in the old Zurich Conservatory by the Vokalensemble Zürich, conductor Peter Siegwart, pianist Paul Seits
Performing the spoken part of Tide Pools at a concert for my 80th birthday in the old Zurich Conservatory by the Vokalensemble Zürich, conductor Peter Siegwart, pianist Paul Seits

1. Sea Squirts

Sea Squirts are rather shapeless ... Adults live attached to rocks ... If gently squeezed ... a sea squirt ... will squirt.

1. Sea Squirts (Vokalensemble Zürich)

2. Starfish

Starfish are built on a 5-ray system. The skin is set with limy plates, the mouth is at the centre of the arms.

Biscuit Star, Cushion Star, Mottled Star, Brittle Star, Reef Star, Sand Star

2. Star Fish (Vokalensemble Zürich)

3. Octopus

Squids and cuttle fish, octopus and paper nautilus, broad finned squid, arrow squid, jewelled squid.

The Common Octopus appears to be a rather timid animal. It seldom has arms longer than one metre.

3. Octopus (Vokalensemble Zürich)

3. Mussels

A man who dredges mussels will get himself a wife. A man who sleeps in his house will get his head thumped!

He tāne rou kākahi, ka moea. He tāne moe i roto i te whare kurua te takataka!*

4. Mussels (Vokalensemble Zürich)

5. Gastropods

The Gastropod, or “stomach-foot”, has one shell, which may be tent-shaped, as in the limpets:

ornate limpet, radiate limpet, ribbon limpet, slipper limpet, Maoricrypta casata.

Or coiled into a tight spiral like the whelks:

knobbed whelk, spotted whelk, speckled whelk, lined whelk, Buccinulum powelli

Or coiled in a spiral, like the paua:

Queen paua, Virgin paua, edible black-foot abalone, Haliotis iris

Oh now is the hour to talk about the Sea Slug.

New Zealand has an amazing variety of sea slugs,

some of which have yet to be described ...

Archidoris wellingtonensis

5. Gastropods (Vokalensemble Zürich)