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The Memories of Poplar Trees

Music of Sally Greenaway

The Memories of Poplar Trees is inspired by the hallmark avenues of tall poplars, lined up at attention on either side of the main streets of towns scattered across New South Wales.

The trees were planted in c.1938 as part of a concerted state-wide effort to commemorate fallen WW1 soldiers and key civic officials; including local mayors. This coincided with nationalistic parades and indigenous rights advocacy marches which took place as part of the marking of 150 years since European settlement in Australia.

A Poplar tree's lifespan can as much as 200 years and historically they have provided inspiration for folklore worldwide. The delicate rustling of their short-stemmed heart-shaped leaves is said to be whispering secrets and memories. The wood has medicinal qualities used by healers to comfort those who are grieving. The Celts believed that Poplars symbolised victory, transformation and vision.

Families were given tin cans containing a sapling poplar - enough for each family member who was taken by the war, as part of a concerted state-wide effort to commemorate the fallen from WWI.

The Poplar trees of NSW, cast into straight lines for history and aesthetics, have lived through and beared witness to many significant events and changes in society over several generations - WWII, floods and droughts and climate change, booms and busts of their towns, urbanisation and highway bypasses. And the stories of the generations of townspeople and visitors who have travelled past them.

Many of these poplars are dying now. Several have been removed altogether due to being public hazards or to accommodate road widening. But those that remain are now heritage listed and continue to bring seasonal beauty and historic character to their towns, even those with only a faint hint of green remaining in their skeletal branches; they continue to guard the entrance of their towns and whisper memory to those who pause to notice these trees.

Greenaway's writing for The Memory of Poplar Trees features extensive use of the tremolo effect, whereby the instruments create shimmering harmonic textures to evoke the rustling of leaves. The melodic material of the piece is inspired by a melodic fragment from Venus by Holst (from his Planet Suite, composed during WW1).

Throughout human history, Venus has been surrounded by mythology and symbolism, with common themes across cultures with female deities, 'bringer of light', looking towards the future without forgetting the past, prosperity and peace.

The symbolism of both Holst's Venus and the Poplar avenue plantings combine and intersect for the inspiration for this piece, The Memory of Poplar Trees. Greenaway's writing demands the performers to stretch their command of soft playing, in order to create a peaceful and ethereal sound world.

The piece was commissioned by the Orange Regional Conservatorium, with the support the Godfrey Turner Memorial Music Trust, to feature four outstanding students.

The premiere performance was given by these students for the Orange Chamber Music Festival 2022.

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The Memories of Poplar Trees was commissioned by Orange Regional Conservatorium, with the support from the Godfrey Turner Memorial Music Trust

This recording was made possible thanks to philanthopic support of my wonderful patrons via the Australian Cultural Fund.

Composer, artistic director

Sally Greenaway

Instrumentation & performers

  • Sally Walker - flute
  • Helentherese Good - violin
String orchestra
  • Barbara Jane Gilby, Victoria Jacono-Gilmovich, Timothy Wickham, Erin Patrick - violin
  • John Ma, Lucy Carrigy-Ryan, Liz Chalker - viola
  • Samuel Payne, Liam Meany - cello
  • Kyle Ramsay-Daniel - bass

Audio engineers

  • Location recording, mixing - Duncan Lowe
  • Record assist - Violet Lowe
  • Mastering - Kimmo Vennonen

Music video filming and production

  • Enemies of Reality Films
  • Director, editor, animator - Marisa Martin
  • Director of photography, colour grade - Luke Patterson
  • Camera operator - Miguel Gallagher
  • Camera assist - Daniel Horrill
  • Artwork painting - Paul Martin
  • Runners - Peter Levan, Gregg McFaul

Location recording

  • Recorded at Snow Concert Hall, Canberra

Copyright © ℗ 2023 Sally Greenaway

This project was made possible thanks to philanthropic support.

Sally Greenaway gratefully acknowledges the significant contributions of her generous donors:

ACF subscription philanthopy patrons

  • Chris & Heather Abbott
  • Peter Barta
  • Yu-Lan Chan
  • Julie Evans
  • Juris Jakovics
  • Tanya Jenkin
  • Carol Le Brocq
  • Jason Li
  • Edward Neeman
  • Leanne Sales
  • Glenn Stephens

1 in 1000 fundraising campaign 2023 (Australian Cultural Fund)

Platinum supporters

Sharon Green, Cathy Levan, Marisa Martin, Matasha Mazis, Catherine Miniken, Klaudia Weinberg, Paul Yeoh

Gold supporters

Anonymous, John Agnew, Lucy Carrigy-Ryan, Yu-Lan Chan, Philip Trigge

Silver supporters

Frank Ayala, David Crosbie, Chris Harris, David Hawking, Anna Larkin, Geraldine Martin, Dee McFaul, Leslie Poole

Bronze supporters

Adjaxon Araujo, Skye Baines, Stephen Bates, Tony Bird, Oscar Bosman, Monica Buckland, Jenna Cave, Myee Clohessy, Gillian Crick, Victoria Jacono, Matt Klohs, Paul Leopardi, Virginia Lankshear, Andrew Meers, Robert Melbourne, Therese Milanovic, Karen North, Louis Sharpe, Dianne Tan, Liz de Totth, Geraldine Triffitt, Melanie Walters, Matt Withers

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