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Judith Weir

Publisher: Chester Music

Nuits d'Afrique (2015),
Commissioned by Wigmore Hall, with the support of André Hoffmann, president of the Foundation Hoffmann, a Swiss grant-making foundation.
Chester Music Ltd
Solo Voices and 1-6 players
Year Composed
12 Minutes
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Programme Note
Judith Weir Nuits d'Afrique (2015),
Nuits d’Afrique was written as a companion piece to Ravel’s Chansons madécasses and shares its instrumentation; soprano, flute, cello and piano.

In response to Ravel’s texts (by Évariste de Parny, who claimed that his ‘Madagascar Songs’ were translations from folk sources, although he had never been there), I searched for poetry by contemporary African women, and found it in Irène Assiba d’Almeida’s French-language anthology A Rain of Words.

The three writers represented here, Fatou Ndiaye Sow, Véronique Tadjo and Marie-Léontine Tsibinda come from Senegal, Ivory Coast and Congo-Brazzaville respectively. All were born in the 1950s. The poems evoke local life: a lullaby, the sound of drums, the appearance of a crocodile. The final poem, describing the continuity of village life, closes with a simple invocation which may recall the ending of Ravel’s composition.

Nuits d’Afrique is warmly dedicated to Ailish Tynan. My thanks also to Michel Vallat for his advice about French prosody.


  • Ensemble
    Hebrides Ensemble
    Ailish Tynan, soprano
[Nuits d'Afrique's] poetry is all by African women born in the 1950s. Weir’s palette here was remarkable: a steamy lullaby with Arcadian flute, stuttering piano for the roll of the tom-toms, a rampant crocodile (the cello of Christian Elliott) tamed into a waltz, and the vagaries of village life, both cheery and sinister.
Marrtin Dreyer, The Press (York),23/07/2018
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