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‘Closing Time’ by Ross Fiddes

Closing Time song cycle evokes the emotions of a couple living with dementia.
Featured Image: Artwork accompanying the score, created by Jill Fiddes.
Artwork accompanying the score, created by Jill Fiddes.

What is Closing Time and where can one enjoy its performance? 

This extended song cycle for soprano, baritone, narrator, and pianist sets words from a lived experience that captures some of the maelstrom of emotions of a couple living with the man’s dementia. In so doing, it provides an insight into the dynamics of the carer and the cared for. 

Poet Karin De Novellis and I are honored that our premiere performers will be United Kingdom-based Australian soprano Daniella Sicari, Newcastle baritone and conductor Christopher Allan, former international and Opera Australia principal soprano Ghillian Sullivan, and concert pianist Tonya Lemoh. The premiere will occur on September 9, 2023, in Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle, followed by a United Kingdom premiere in London on November 29, 2023. 

The intent of both the poetry collection and the song cycle is to create awareness of the psychological and emotional experiences arising within the care partnership and to elicit support for research and for those living with dementia and their carers. The book of the complete poem collection, Closing Time at the Kings Head, can be purchased from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other online sellers. Funds from sales go to assist charities in dementia research and support for those living with dementia and their carers. 

A video of the premiere is planned to be available on YouTube following the performance.

What initially inspired you to grapple with dementia in your art? 

In life I have associated, worked with and/or advised (in a professional capacity) families and couples dealing with dementia, at onset, or fully developed. In closer contact, these included a stunning pianist with whom I performed duets and duo-piano work, and a former business partner and friend.

In 2022, I was given the poetry collection Closing Time at the King’s Head by Karin De Novellis, created out of her experience caring for her husband whilst he lived with dementia for 6 years until his death late 2022. Her poetry was, by turns, raw, lyrical, dynamic, reflective, accepting. The poems demanded a musical setting, and now they have it, as my mini-dramatic song-cycle. We hope that couching the material in a musical format will make the subject more approachable and create greater awareness.

Read the companion piece, ‘Closing Time at the Kings Head’ by Karin De Novellis, which spotlights the poems that inspired this song cycle.

How has working on dementia-related art changed you?

I have created a number of vocal works: three operas, some songs, and some extended song-cycles. Two of the latter are related to “difficult” subjects: one about a valiant but failed campaign at Gallipoli in World War I, and the other, about climate change. The poems in Closing Time appeared to fit my growing desire to address issues in a way which might have an impact on certain perceptions about certain subjects, and in doing so, increase awareness, create support, or challenge attitudes and beliefs. I view Closing Time as one of my most important works, not just in the music, but because of the potential of the work to build greater awareness and support.

Front page of score for Closing Time.
Front page of score for Closing Time.

How has Closing Time been received? 

The work has not yet been performed. It has its premiere in Newcastle, Australia, on August 9, and the UK premiere on November 29. 

Some comments from previewers of the work include:

“That’s a powerful package of thoughts and plans. The poetry is emotionally overflowing on its own. If you have created a vehicle for those words to reach more people with more impact, then you’ve got something very special.” 

“I’ve been talking at social events about Closing Time and people are fascinated by the idea and subject and generally the whole concept.” 

“I listened to (digital realizations of the composition), a couple of times over the weekend. Really beautiful – can hardly wait to hear them performed. ………. I love the work……… “

This work is dedicated to: The score adopts the following dedication by the poet, Karin De Novellis: “This collection is dedicated to my husband without whose daily struggle these words would never have been written. And to unpaid carers everywhere.”

Ross Fiddes headshot
Ross Fiddes

Find more information about Ross Fiddes and his work on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Anyone interested in organizing a performance of the poetry collection or the song cycle may contact Ross Fiddes via social media.

What is a Spotlight?

The Dementia Arts Spotlight promotes visual and performing artists who are grappling with dementia through original work or innovative arts programs. The Spotlight—in a Q&A format where artists describe the details and significance of their work or program—connects each artist to the Dementia Spring community. Find examples of prior Dementia Arts Spotlights here. Know of an artist whose work should be Spotlighted? Send them this link!

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