The Cortège


With the cello cadenza we reach the end of the journey. This is marked by a short piece for the Orchestra, “Kyrie", added to the composition for the 1982 tour.

In what is, in effect, a meditation on death, I wanted it to express in its most complete form, the musical architecture of The Cortège.

In December 1980 l was struck by the similarity of the pattern of responses between priest and congregation in the Christian Kyrie and the musical patterns that I was using in the composition. The two—way exchanges are combined within a triple structure: nine lines in three groups of three identical to that on which The Cortège is based.

Kyrie text

I wanted to write a piece using this structure, and at the same time acknowledge the Christian references of the work, stemming from the jazz Funeral itself, and the roots in the Christian tradition that are very important to both Kate and me. The Kyrie is a simple, universal framework of spiritual communion. It is a channel through which Man, burdened with doubt, with suffering and the fear of death, strives for faith, truth, for redeeming love and renewal.

With its construction in three measures, and its question and answer pattern, it is an equivalent to the most fundamental musical form in jazz, itself wrung from the cries of suffering humanity - the 12 bar blues. Kyrie uses nine major triads, three groups of three, arranged in three sequences:


These triads are in turn placed over each of three root notes, A, C and E, an arranged to produce nine sequences of chords, in three cycles:


The major triad shapes, placed over the three root—notes, produce varied sequences chords, including major chords, sevenths, major sevenths, minor sevenths and so on. In the first cycle, the chord structure is the basis for a trio, quasi-improvised section for cello, guitar and bass guitar. In the second cycle there are two way exchanges between Guy Barker (trumpet) and unison brass playing nine- note phrases, while the rest of the band sustains an organ-like drone of slowly changing chords. This passage follows the pattern of responses of the Christian Kyrie. In the third cycle, the trumpet improvises over the chord sequence, over an orchestral wall of sound, finally resolving, with piano accompaniment, into the introduction to “A Hearth Burns”. 

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