Niagara (1989)

For Organ   10 minutes

In the summer of 1988 I visited Niagara Falls. It was an overwhelming experience, which I didn’t attempt to capture in music at the time. However, the following year, I was commissioned to write three works on the theme of Water for the Salisbury Festival, and I thought of trying to convey, not so much the effect of a colossal and unstoppable cascade, but rather two particular impressions. The first was the surprising sense of optimism created by the perpetual rainbow over the falls, the effect of sunlight on the spray sent up by the falling water – it was quite different from the threatening character I was expecting. But then, donning waterproofs and descending through a labyrinth of tunnels, I found myself seemingly within the falls, watching water hurtling at an incredible speed across the mouth of a cave. As when looking into a fire, images continually formed and re-formed in a torrent of irresistible energy; I had the impression that something huge, inexplicable and terrifying was about to leap out of the water. Niagara was written for Thomas Trotter, and first performed by him in Salisbury Cathedral in 1989. I revised it for David Titterington in 2001.

Commissioned by the Salisbury Festival

First performance: 7th September 1989, Thomas Trotter, Salisbury Cathedral.