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Song of the olive garden
by Elliott Park

Song of the Olive Garden is a meditation for solo theorbo after a poem by Harry Cochrane, and is one of the three winners of the Theorbo Today composition prize; it has already had other performances outside the Theorbo Today project and has led to other projects for early instruments. The text depicts the Agony in the Garden from the sympathetic but detached view of a nearby olive tree. Inspired by the theorbo's canonical repertoire, the piece is made up of a series of fragments in the form of an arpeggiaic accompaniment as might be found in the recitative of sacred vocal music, a second more turbulent toccata-like section, and final chaconne-lament as was popularised during the 17th century. The plainsong hymn 'In monte olivis consito' is used as a cantus firmus (‘fixed melody’) in the diapason (bass) strings of the instrument throughout.

Elliott Park is a composer of acoustic and electroacoustic music, who studied composition and musicology at Durham and Cambridge Universities and is currently completing a postgraduate degree in composition at the Royal Academy of Music, London. 

Harry Cochrane is a jobbing man of letters from Northumberland. When he’s not penning his own poetry, Harry is likely reviewing other people’s for the Times Literary Supplement, or commenting on opera as The Florentine’s resident reviewer. You can follow him on Twitter @hjccochrane

The Olive Garden


Mountain soil, stony, thin: it crumbles
around our toes. The triumph nears.
We supply bays to ring the temples
of charioteers, pensioned legionnaires.


A lone preacher came to pray among us.
Overnight, on the neighbouring hill,
three trees grew. Now it is autumn
the farmer splits a fruit, savours oil.

Harry Cochrane

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