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The Little Match Girl is the setting of an original text based on the Danish folk story by Hans Christian Andersen (Den Lille Pige med Svovlstikkerne 1845).
The piece is in a loose ternary form. The A section is a dark, dramatic, folk-like dance in a minor mode and 7/8 time. The B section uses increasingly grating polytonality: a semi-chorus sings traditional carols while the main choir repeats a harmonically “distant” fragment. These juxtaposed carols serve as aural depictions of the Match Girl’s heavenly visions, and also serve to remind performers and audience of the stark contrast between different economic classes of people’s experiences of the Christmas season.
The piece was composed in the winter of 2018, inspired by a conversation about the treatment of homeless people in Toronto, especially during the cold weather. It aims to challenge performers and listeners aurally, asking them to examine their views towards people who are less fortunate, for whom a small kindness might be the difference between life and death.
Text: Original text after the story by Hans Christian Andersen
Voicing: SATB Divisi + SATB Semi Chorus
Composed in 2019
A doll in the wind barefoot in the snow
with fistfuls of matches but no flame aglow
left bitten by breezes called simply a bother
downtrodden by carriage by crowd and by father
at falling of nighttime with market abandoned
no money to bring home no hearth to lay down in
She wanders alone cheeks rosy, eyes glistening
the light is no more the new year ready for christening
So small as she cowers to brace against the storm
she has an idea to try to get warm
Her breath becomes shallow
it labours and catches
as slowly, she struggles to strike off her matches
and out of each slight flame comes a vision
one – the great light of a tree
two – the great feast of heaven
three – a shooting star
a doll in the street left bitten by breezes
at rising of day shall be still and silent.