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Waves of Gallipoli (2019)

for SATB choir | 00:05:00

by Melissa Dunphy | text by various

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This work is published by EC Schirmer.

Melissa discussed this piece on ECS Publishing Podcast's "Interview: Melissa Dunphy on Her Latest Works" on January 8, 2020
Waves of Gallipoli was commissioned by the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus, and premiered October 6, 2019, at Masonic Prince Hall, St. Louis, Missouri. The work was inspired by a trip Artistic Director Philip Barnes took to Gallipoli in Turkey, the site of a disastrous First World War military campaign, to visit the grave of his great-uncle, Private Gray, who died at the Third Battle of the Krithia Vineyard in August 2015. The peninsula is now marked with cemeteries for the British, French, and Empire soldiers who fought unsuccessfully against Ottoman defenses; particularly striking are the graves of Australian and New Zealand infantry, which are marked with epitaphs provided by the families of the fallen. Five of these epitaphs have been included in the text for “Waves of Gallipoli,” along with lines from poet Leon Gellert, a Gallipoli veteran.

The music is direct and needs little explanation beyond these observations; we can hear the undulating of the Aegean Sea lapping the coastline of Gallipoli, sad melismas complement the idea of “moaning;” following the epitaphs, a single voice sounds the bugle call, “The Last Post,” which is sounded at ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corp) Day dawn services each year, memorializing the soldiers who fell at Gallipoli, and which is synonymous with military funerals.

"[Waves of Gallipoli] was the concert’s one work with some sort of connection to the general theme of Memorial Day... For a text based on such horrific history, Ms. Dunphy’s work is actually quite restrained, never trying to approximate the volume of combat. Instead, she employs understated effects like whispering and melisma, and resists any temptation to over-sentimentalize the words." [KDHX Community Media]

"Wave upon wave of heartache marked Melissa Dunphy’s “Waves of Gallipoli”... The music swelled, the choir heaved as one, and it was as if we could hear waves washing ashore throughout the sorrowful piece." [Stir]

"I think one of the things about your music that is very interesting is it seems like you approach things as if they were a story, and you look for interesting things that will make some kind of narrative in a way and give some kind of message. And I think that that's really unique in what you've done." [Mark Lawson]

"Dunphy chose five epitaphs from Australian and New Zealand graves (“How much of love and light and joy/is buried with our darling boy”), framed by verses by an Australian veteran, Leon Geliert, and filled with the sounds of the swelling surf. The result, commissioned by Dorsey and Sondra Ellis, is complex but accessible, heartbreaking and harmonically rich." [St. Louis Post Dispatch]

Cover photo: The 6th Battalion, Manchester Regiment advancing over open terrain during the Third Battle of Krithia, Gallipoli. © Mary Evans/Robert Hunt Collection/Imperial War Museum (Q 69514). All rights reserved. Used by permission.

These long forgotten dead with sunken graves,
Their only mourners are the moaning waves,
I sat there long, and listened - all things listened too
A thousand waves I heard; and then I knew...1
How much of love and light and joy
is buried with our darling boy.2
He rose responsive to the call
and gave his best, his life, his all.3
The call was short, the blow severe
to part with one we loved so dear.4
Too far away your grave to see
but not too far to think of thee.5
Silent thoughts, a secret tear
keep your memory ever dear.6
The dead would be remembered evermore
[That] slept in great battalions by the shore.1

1 From The Last to Leave by Leon Gellert (1915)
2 Private Robert Edward McIntyre, 586, 8th Battalion, AIF. Killed in action 7 August 1915, aged 22. Shrapnel Valley Cemetery II.A.12.
3 Private Alfred Edward James Rowe, 644, 19th Battalion, AIF. Killed in action 22 September 1915, aged 29. Shrapnel Valley Cemetery I.D.12.
4 Private Alfred Hobbs, 1906, 22nd Battalion, AIF. Killed in action 2 December 1915, aged 18. Shrapnel Valley Cemetery II.E.22.
5 Private Arthur Gilbert Whittle, 847, 11th Battalion, AIF. Killed in action 2 May 1915, aged 28. Lone Pine Cemetery I.G.1.
6 Private William Sampson, 714, 16th Battalion, AIF. Killed in action 2 May 1915, aged 25. Quinn's Post Cemetery D.5.

Artwork by Mary Evans/Robert Hunt Collection/Imperial War Museum (Q 69514)


  • 28 May, 2023: Saint Louis Chamber Chorus at St. Margaret of Scotland Church, St. Louis, MO
  • 11 Nov, 2021: Chor Leoni at St. Andrew's Wesley United Church, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • 10 Nov, 2021: Chor Leoni at St. Andrew's Wesley United Church, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • 06 Oct, 2019: Saint Louis Chamber Chorus at Masonic Prince Hall, St. Louis, MO