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Pelican Song

for soprano and orchestra

3333 4331 perc hp pno timp sop str

Duration: 15'

Commissioned by Stephen Rochford for soprano Linda Leyrer and the Irvine Valley College Symphony Orchestra


The genesis for this composition lies in a tiny nonsense poem I wrote for one of the little photocopied booklets I used to make as Christmas presents.


This was from Winter 1983:


The reason for the pelican is simple,

There aren’t many other words to say.

And if there were, well I would surely offer,

“A mincemeat pie is good on Saturday.”

Since producing that little gem, I have had several near-pelican encounters; their antics, majesty and general funniness seemed a good subject for musical portraiture.

The three movements are entitled:


I. “Simple"

II. “Oily, Murky"

III. “Rice is Nice”

“Simple” portrays the soaring majesty of a group of pelicans in formation, sunrise over a placid cove, followed by a glowing orange sunset on a high bluff overlooking the Pacific.

With “Oily, Murky”, I hoped to convey the desperate plight of all sea creatures in the face of massive polluting of the ocean waters, and in particular was suggested to me by an image of a pelican covered in crude oil.


“Rice is Nice” is playful — as the pelicans can be extremely playful when their fishing expeditions are over, and the weather is nice and sunny.


Thank you to ...


Stephen Rochford and the Irvine College Symphony Orchestra for commissioning this work.


Soprano Linda Leyrer for bringing her soaring vocal talents to the premiere performance.

Mark Petersen, whose contribution to the percussion section included designing and building an instrument especially for this piece, fulfilling the score's direction for "random jangling" (for emulating the sound of boat rigging).

"Jangly Thing" (listen for it in the "Rice is Nice" movement)

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