Das Alpha und Das Omega: The Alpha and the Omega For narrator, trombone, organ and percussion by John Kenny
In 2004 the German trombonist Michael Büettler and British trombonist/composer John Kenny ran into each other by chance on a long train journey in Germany. Büettler was also a frequent interpreter of Kenny’s music for solo trombone, and during this journey they discussed the idea of Kenny composing a substantial piece for trombone and organ which Buettler would premier with organist Georg Rothenaicre. A few weeks later Buettler contacted Kenny in Scotland with a dramatic proposal: would he be prepared to base the piece upon the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, or Apocalypse? This idea had been proposed by the committee of the Auferstehungskirche Gemeinde in Landshut, Bavaria, which was prepared to commission the piece and help stage the premier in Landshut in celebration of their jubilee.
This was a daunting idea, but Michael Buettler was well aware of John Kenny’s deep interest in the integration of speech and music through his work both in theatre and with poetry, and presented Kenny with a copy of das A und das O by the internationally renowned German poet Walter Jens – a daring and highly re-interpretation of the original Greek texts as a contemporary epic poem in German. As soon as he read this extraordinary book, Kenny was convinced that it should be possible to set virtually the complete text, conceiving it as a continuous dramatic structure of interlaced speech and music.
The result is a seventy minute piece which unfolds in eight “scenes” without interval, employing alto, tenor and bass trombones, sackbut, organ, and speaker. All three performers are also required to play gongs, tam tams, chimes and bells. The world premier of Das Alpha und Das Omega took place to a capacity audience on December 11th 2005 at the Auferstehungskirche, Landshut, with Michael Büettler on trombones, the organist Georg Rothenaicre, and John Kenny himself as narrator. In 2006 the trio have given performances in Rheinfelden and Rien, Switzerland, and in Munich, Erding, and Russelsheim in Germany. A CD recording and further performances are planned throughout Europe in 2007/2008, with Kenny also setting to work on versions in English and French.