Gerard Brophy

We Two Boys Together Clinging

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Gerard Brophy’s We Two Boys Together Clinging uses Walt Whitman’s poem from Leaves of Grass as a springboard to celebrate the relationship of the men who commissioned it, Steven Alward, who sadly recently died and Mark Wakely.

We two boys together clinging,
One the other never leaving,
Up and down the roads going, North and
South excursions making, Power enjoying, elbows stretching, fingers clutching,
Arm’d and fearless, eating, drinking,
sleeping, loving.

No law less than ourselves owning, sailing, soldiering, thieving, threatening,
Misers, menials, priests alarming, air
breathing, water drinking, on the turf or the
sea-beach dancing,
Cities wrenching, ease scorning, statutes
mocking, feebleness chasing,
Fulfilling our foray.

Whitman’s poem has been variously interpreted as a celebration of same-sex love on the one hand, and as a depiction of Civil War camaraderie on the other. But this latter interpretation lacks plausibility, given that the poem was included in the first edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855, at least five years before Union- Confederacy hostilities erupted. It’s more likely that Whitman was drawing a picture of male bonding as he himself longed to experience it, frankly welcoming all the affectionate and erotic currents such bonding might entail.

Brophy initially considered setting the poem for tenor, but decided instead to use it as the springboard for an instrumental piece: “The eclectic yet highly attractive combination of instruments facilitates a rich and evocative response to the commissioners’ wishes for the piece to be a celebration of their relationship. The incorporation of the two clarinets and piano were at their express request.” The piece features intricate imitation across all the parts, but the two clarinets are especially close, dovetailing and in each other’s pockets throughout until the final bars, when only one remains.

This new work was commissioned by Mark Wakley and Steven Alward with support from Four Winds donors and Creative Partnerships Australia, as part of the recent ‘Compose the Future with James Crabb campaign’. The Co-Artistic directors of the Omega Ensemble performed the premiere of the work at Four Winds Festival on Friday 30th March 2018 alongside the Australian National Academy of Music strings and clarinetist Lloyd Van’t Hoff. The performance by the Omega Ensemble was the Sydney premiere of the work and is dedicated to the life of Steven Alward.


Lloyd Van't Hoff (clarinet), David Rowden (clarinet), Alexandra Osborne (violin), Sun Yi (violin), Clemens Leske (piano), Neil Thompson (viola), Paul Stender (cello) and Alex Henery (double bass)

Video Credits

Jonathan Palmer (recording engineer)
Bruce Terry (videographer)