The Ice Palace
The Ice Palace is for young children and is based, with permission, on Robert Swindell’s book "Starjik", and the narration is drawn from it. The words of the first song are by the composer, Barry Russell. The work was first performed by nine primary and junior schools after two days' rehearsal at a Music in Education Workshop: proof that very young children can respond to a sophisticated and demanding score.

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(A noise of wind)
Narrator: Turn your face into the East wind. If you could see forever, you would see Ivan’s land. It is a land where summer is short and pale like a celandine – winter long and cold like an icicle. Ivan does not live there now, for he grew old long ago and is gone. But the people of the pinewoods remember him. They remember him most of all in winter because they are not afraid of winter any more. They have no need to be afraid because of something Ivan did when he was very small.
Enter the villagers. Children playing, women at market, &c.
Sing out that summer is here
Cold winter now is gone away
Sing loud and be of good cheer
In the sunshine and the warmth of day.
Sing it out loud:
Cold winter’s gone away!
Sing it out loud
Black winter’s gone away!
(A dance)
Narrator: Ivan and his brother lived in the house of their father the blacksmith, in a village in the shadow of the great dark forest. The people of the village were poor but in the summertime they were happy and the pale warm air rang with their laughter and singing as they worked. But as the short summer days gave way to autumn, their songs became sad songs and their laughter thin. For they knew that far away to the North, Starjick was greasing the runners of his sled and rounding up his wolves.
Narrator: Starjick. Whisper his name and it was winter in your heart.
Chorus: (whispering) Starjick…Starjick…
Wolves howling deep in the forest
Distant sounds turn our blood to ice
Warnings that Starjick will visit
In the night beside his hungry team
Starjick! Keep away from our village.
Starjick! Go some other way
Starjick! Spare the lives of our children
Those you take are never seen again.
Eyes glowing green in the darkness
Grinning mouths show their cruel fangs
Starjick is nearly upon us
Looking for a child to feed upon.
Starjick! is abroad in the village
Starjick! Lords it through the street
Starjick! Sowing grief, sowing terror
For at dawn another child is gone.
Starjick, keep away from our village!
Starjick, keep away from our village!
(whisper) Starjick…
Narrator: So Starjick came to Ivan’s village. And when Ivan awoke in the morning, his little brother was gone. All the village wept for the blacksmith and his wife. Little Ivan walked in Starjick’s sled tracks to the end of the village and stood there a long time, staring into the north.
Out of the warm house
Ivan creeps softly
Into the dark and freezing night
Into the north wind
Ivan treads bravely:
"Wait, little brother,
I will not leave you
(solo) I’m coming!"
On through the forest
Dark and forbidding
Searching a path to Starjick’s land
Ivan goes onward
After the lost child
"Wait little brother.
I will not leave you
(solo) I’m frightened!"
Narrator: Ivan was afraid. He was more afraid than he had ever been, for nobody had ever seen Starjick’s land and lived to return home. His head was bowed and he cried a little as he went along, and his tears became pips of ice before they touched the snow.
He was afraid, and sometimes he almost turned back. But then he would see in his mind a picture of his brother, holding out his arms and crying, in a place that was cold beyond imagining. And then Ivan would brush away his tears and go on.
Morning comes and dark clouds hide the sun
Easy to turn back from your journey
Face into the north wind, carry on
Thoughts of his brother
Where has the lost boy gone?
And at noon the sun still hides his face
Longing for home, your bed and brother
Sinking in the snow but trudging on
Thoughts of his brother
Where has the lost boy gone?
Wolves howling deep in the forest
Crouching shadows of grey and black
Too late, for soon all the pine wood
Echoes to the cries of the pack
Ivan tries to run but the snow won’t let him
Sucking at his boots so he stumbles and falls
Hear their snapping jaws they are right behind you
Baying for your blood with their calls
Narrator: A tree – climb a tree. Quickly climb a tree. Wolves can run but they can’t climb trees. Hurry, Ivan!
Chorus: Hurry, Ivan! (repeated, getting louder)
Narrator: Ivan clung to the branch of the tree while the wolves jumped, snapping at his feet. Soon Ivan began to feel cold. The wind whipped through its bare branches and his dangling legs became numb.
Wind sighing coldly
Though the bare branches
Frost in his fingers, hands grow numb
Cold creeping inwards
Sapping his spirit
"Farewell my brother
I cannot save you now."
Narrator: Stiffly, Ivan climbed down. He peered fearfully all around, but the wolves were gone, and there was no sign of the bear.
Narrator: Ivan is sleeping. Suddenly he hears his brother calling. He leaves his safe warm snowdrift and follows the voice. The voice and the figure are a trick and Ivan is lost. A friendly white owl leads him back to the safety of his sleeping place.
Ivan… Ivan…
Starjick… Starjick…
Come Ivan…
Come Ivan…
Come dance…
Come dance…
Tonight is a feast and you are welcome…
Come, Ivan, join in our dance
Ivan join in out feast
For you are welcome…
(shout) STARJICK!
Narrator: Ivan walked on. Then, turning to look back, he saw something moving, far away between the snow-laden trees. At first it looked like a whirl of snow crystals, but as he came closer he saw that it was an old woman in a grey sparking shawl. He watched. The woman walked slowly, bending down now and then to pick something up from the snow. When she came near she straightened up, gazing at Ivan. She smiled. Ivan took off his mitten, put his hand into his pocket and pulled out a crust of bread.
Old woman, you are cold and hungry
Share my bread; it will warm you.
The old grey woman smiled
You are kind she gently said
But I do not need your bread
Old woman, you need food and shelter
For the wind wails like a hungry wolf.
The old grey woman smiled and said
You are good to share your bread
Take help from me instead.
Oh little Ivan
you know me
As the frost as the wind
As a small spruce tree
I change my shape
and often go
As a snowy owl
or a twist of snow
I’ve followed your steps; I’ve guided you on
Cared for you like my only one.
When hungry, cold
Quite numb with fears
Into the snow
You shed your tears
I was close behind
By day and night
I took them up
And polished them bright
See them shine in the palm of my hand
They are seeds of light for a sorrowing land
They flash with flame they are diamonds rare
Of a brother’s love, of a brother’s care
And now you have the power and art
To soften Starjick’s cruel heart.
(spoken) Here, take them.
(sung) Old woman, I do not understand
What am I to do with these tears?
You will find my child that there is danger still
And I can help no more
You must go alone
To the final meeting
Cast your tears into Starjick’s face, and say:
Brothers never more must part
Melt the winter in his heart
Brothers never more must part…&c.
Narrator: When He had gone a little way, Ivan turned to wave farewell, but there was only a little spruce tree that quivered in the wind.
Narrator: Ivan walked on and after a long time he came to a mountain. It was a hard white mountain and as he drew near the air grew colder still. At the foot of the mountain was a great high cave with the wind booming in its mouth.
Ivan shuddered because he knew at last that he had come to Starjick’s land. He walked on into the blackness holding out his arms before him and going very slowly.
(Bats appear)
Something fluttered in his face! At once something else hit him. Flapping coldly in his face!
Ivan was looking into a great glittering cavern. The floor was blue ice and enormous icicles hung in thousands from the roof. In the centre of the cavern stood a hideous figure – Starjick!
Who are you? (echo)
I am Ivan. (echo)
Why are you here? (echo)
I have come for my brother (echo)
Your brother is dead!
My brother is not dead
I can feel that he is near
Ivan, you are right
You will find your missing brother here
Come little Ivan
Come little Ivan
And I will show you
Higher than a house
and as long as Starjick’s cave
Trapped in ice as clear
And as sparkling as a crystal pool
Frozen and lifeless
Frozen and lifeless
The poor lost children
These children do not run
They cannot dance they cannot play
Frozen smiles and frowns
They no longer laugh they cannot sing
Such pretty children
Such pretty children
And mine forever!
And now it is time
For you to join them!
(Ivan takes out his tears and faces Starjick)
Brothers never more must part
Melt the winter in his heart
(He casts the tears into Starjick’s face. The ice palace crumbles)
Starjick is smiling
Starjick has changed
His heart begins to thaw
Starjick is kind now
Starjick is warm
The tears have healed his cruel flaw
Starjick is gentle
Starjick is mild
He touches each child
Who wakes to life
As if from a dream…
The spell is unravelled
We live once again
The charm is turned backward
We cast off our pain
Our prison has melted
Love breaks its hard seal
Our winter has ended
We breathe and we feel
We wend our way homeward
And Starjick sets the way
He leads us from darkness
And brings us into day
Narrator: With each village, the line became a little shorter, until at last only Ivan and his brother were left. And so they came home. And fear melted in the hearts of people and they were happy.
We see our own village
We give a happy cry
Out mothers are waiting
And Ivan waves goodbye
Narrator: And when winter returned, Starjick came again. No one heard him come but when the people woke at dawn there were tracks in the snow, and shining gifts by all the children’s beds.
-- END --
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