Spirit of the Sequoia

SPIRIT OF THE SEQUOIA was commissioned by Dr. Robert Oertli for his family and the Musikgesellschaft Möhlin, Switzerland, and first performed by them in November 2003. 

The brief from Dr. Oertli was for a piece that characterised man’s ability to overcome personal tragedy, a scenario which often leaves one with a philosophy of serenity. 

Composer Philip Sparke decided to use the analogy of the sequoia, a generic name for the huge redwood trees, particularly the Californian redwood. The remarkable life cycle of these amazing trees involves them dropping seeds to the ground which require heat to open their shells and germinate. The redwood forests are frequently subject to fires which can destroy the mother tree but ironically also provide the impetus for their seeds to spring into life; the trees actually need a disaster to procreate. In a similar way, the human spirit can actually gain from setbacks: we become stronger after adversity.

The music falls into sections which can broadly be characterised as doubt, conflict, catharsis, inner calm and, finally, triumph.