Five Lullabies (1997)

For piano and pre-recorded track in 5 continuous sections
Choreography: Christopher Gable
Original designs: Morag Beaton
Lighting Design: John Mackenzie
First performed at the Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford as part of the 1997 Ballet Central National tour. Revived and remounted in 2009 by Carole Gable

Five Lullabies turned out to be the last of Christopher Gable’s ballets. It is a gentle piece for three couples that sensitively traces the journey from childhood to adulthood. The initial impulse for the music was the ill health of the composer’s mother, so it is natural that it explores the worlds of nurture and of caring. This overall context helps to account for the strong sense of poignancy that surrounds the piece.

While the final section is the real lullaby, the previous sections all have lullaby characteristics, such as rocking motifs and a melodic simplicity. So despite the vitality and dynamic quality of the music, it is entirely legitimate to see them as lullabies. Their style harks back to an earlier period, a homage to the first golden age of children’s literature and the innocence obliterated by the first world war.

The pre-recorded track consists of an evocative combination of harp, vibraphone and echo piano, which mostly supports the live piano, but occasionally offers not only a dialogue with the piano but an alternative distant world to which the piano has to react in the same way it would if it were an offstage band. Maybe that creates the dimension gap that is, in a Laurie Lee sort of way, childhood from an adult’s perspective.