three visions in a grove of trees (2009)

For 12 players

Commissioned by: Ensemble 10/10

Programme Note:

According to the unique theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or ‘LDS’ or ‘Mormon’ Church), in 1827 a young man named Joseph Smith received a vision.

Deliberating over the question of which Christian denomination was true, and taking advice from James 1:5 (‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God…’), Smith retired to a small grove of trees in upstate New York in order to pray. What followed became a cornerstone of this new faith.

Smith claimed that in a blaze of light, and amidst thundering theophony, both God and Jesus appeared before him. They instructed the young man to join none of the churches, for all had fallen into a state of apostasy. Joseph was called to become a prophet (akin to those of the Old Testament) and to restore the gospel to its original form. As a prophet, Joseph founded the new church and began to call his followers ‘Latter Day Saints’, as he believed they were living in the end times, prior to Christ’s return.

Throughout a highly controversial prophetic career (which ended in his assassination), Smith created (or ‘restored’) several ‘new’ books of scripture for use in conjunction with the Bible: The Book of Mormon (detailing an alleged visitation of the resurrected Christ upon ancient America); The Pearl of Great Price (the alleged writings of Abraham and Moses, offering an explanation as to ‘how God came to be God’) and his Doctrine and Covenants (a selection of alleged revelations detailing how the church was to be restored).

For a historian, Smith’s claims are, at best, questionable.

Smith himself recorded several accounts of what happened in the grove, each radically different from one another. With each retelling, the story ‘progresses’ – and Smith’s role in God’s eyes is amplified in turn. Historical evidence suggests that Smith re-wrote the story at least three times, although if some more questionable sources are considered the figure rises to as high as nine.

three visions in a grove of trees presents a number of musical ‘visions’, each growing from the music of the previous. In a sense, they are all the same, as if an overheard story is told again in different words. Some are presented within a musical grove of trees, others are not. The work is cast in seven (sometimes short) movements, preceded by a (tenuously related) prelude, subtitled james one : five:


Score Excerpt:

Approximately 14 minutes