RTC-75: 1997 Festival Dance for Mezzo-soprano and Orchestra

Text: “The Dance,” William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

Commission: Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra with the assistance of the Manitoba Arts Council

Length: 7 min.

Completion: February – 30. April, 1997, Winnipeg

Premiere: 1998-01-31, Rose van der Hooft, mezzo-soprano, WSO, Bramwell Tovey (cond.) Winnipeg New Music Festival

Publication: CMC

In his program note, Robert Turner writes:

“Completed on April 30, 1997, this work was commissioned by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (with a grant from the Manitoba Arts Council) for performance at the Gala Finale of the WSO’s New Music Festival on January 31, 1998.

Since the overall theme of the program was to be “The Dance,” inspiration for the work was provided by two factors – the composer’s Scottish heritage and “The Dance,” a poem by the American poet William Carlos Williams.

The first two sections are based on the rhythms and tempos of two of the most popular Scottish dances, the Strathspey and the Reel, respectively. The third and final section is also in dance rhythm (an ostinato) but with or without the addition of a singer, rendering the words of the Williams’ poem. The text is a colourful description of the dancers depicted in Brueghel’s great painting, “The Kermess” – a Flemish word meaning an outdoor festival or fair.”

The Kermess by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Text of the poem by William Carlos Williams:

In Breughel’s great picture, The Kermess
The dancers go round,
They go round and around,
The squeal and the blare and the tweedle of bagpipes
A bugle and fiddles tipping their bellies
(round as the thick-sided glasses whose wash they impound
Their hips and their bellies off balance to turn them.
Kicking and rolling about the Fair Grounds,
Swinging their butts,
Those shanks must be sound
To bear up under such rollicking measures
Prance as they dance in Breughel’s great picture, The Kermess.



Manishen, James. Review: “Festival ends on a grinding, pulsating note,” Winnipeg Free Press, Sunday, 1 February 1998.

“Veteran Winnipeg composers Robert Turner’s Festival Dance was also premiered. Based in part on the composer’s Scottish heritage, the lyrical writing and flowing ideas, bathed in Turner’s characteristically assured orchestration, made for a lovely work, with an attractive mezzo-soprano solo sung by Rosemarie van der Hooft.”