Program notes

The Line for choir and orchestra, opus 116 (2022)

The Line carries the tempo marking of “Fast, savage, grotesque” and was written to commemorate the brutal, forced labour construction of the Thai-Burma railway by the Japanese Army in World War 2. Many Australian and Commonwealth military died or suffered terribly in the building of the railway as did many members of the local Thai, Burmese and Malaysian populations. My work is a setting of my own text and also draws on the Dies Irae movements of the Mozart and Verdi requiems.

Commissioned by the Flowers of Peace and the Australian War Memorial, Canberra the work is about 4 minutes, 30 seconds duration and is scored for large orchestra and chorus. It had its first performance at Llewellyn Hall in Canberra on 29 October 2022 with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and guests, musicians from the Australian Defence Force, ANU Chamber Orchestra and Choirs and the Brisbane Chamber Choir directed by Chris Latham.

Hear the hammer strike the spike in,

Hear the pickaxe strike the hard stone.

Clear the jungle, vine and bamboo,

Blast the boulder, feel the earth shake.

 

Deep gorge, loose rock, monsoon river,

Mud and filth and flies and fever.

Sleep starved torture, endless beatings.

No food. We drink putrid water!

 

Hollow sick men, ulcers, gangrene.

Skin and bone men, slaves not army,

Beat them, work them, starve them, break them.

Wampo, Tonchan, Kanyu, Hintok.

 

This one die.

This one live.

This one die.

Cholera.

Dysentery.

Suicide.

Rotting flesh.

Doctor says: “amputate.”

This one die.

This one live.

 

Wampo, Tonchan, Kanyu, Hintok.

Fed to the line. Fed to the maw.

Fed to the fire. Fed to the war.

 

Dies iræ, dies illa,

Solvet sæclum in favilla:

Teste David cum Sibylla.

 

Hear the hammer call us back:

Tonchan, Wampo, Hintok, Hellfire Pass.

© Andrew Schultz, 2022.


Listen to the recording of the first performance from 29 October 2022 with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and guests, musicians from the Australian Defence Force, ANU Chamber Orchestra and Choirs and the Brisbane Chamber Choir directed by Chris Latham. The high trumpet solo towards the end of The Line is played here by the brilliant Paul Goodchild.