(a cantata of 4 songs)
Musicians: SATB chorus, oboe, and piano. There are brief baritone solos in the first song.
Length: 3:38 + 2:32 + 2:42 + 5:28 = 14:15
Four poems (from a self-selected sequence of 10) published in 1922 by American Imagist poet
John Gould Fletcher (1886-1950), in
American Poetry 1922: A Miscellany
[Harcourt Brace & Co., New York], available from Project Gutenberg.
Their common theme is our deep need to pass on and augment both remembrance and art,
through poetry and song, in order to give meaning to the human condition.
My mind is a puddle in the street reflecting green Sirius;
In thick dark groves trees huddle lifting their branches like beckoning hands.
We eat the grain, the grain is death, all goes back to the earth’s dark mass,
All but a song which moves across the plain like the wind’s deep-muttering breath.
Bowed down upon the earth, man sets his plants and watches for the seed,
Though he be part of the tragic pageant of the sky, no heaven will aid his mortal need.
I find flame in the dust, a word once uttered that will stir again,
And a wine-cup reflecting Sirius in the water held in my hands.
2. Blue water
Sea-violins are playing on the sands;
Curved bows of blue and white are flying over the pebbles,
See them attack the chords—dark basses, glinting trebles.
Dimly and faint they croon, blue violins.
“Suffer without regret,” they seem to cry,
“Though dark your suffering is, it may be music.”
Waves of blue heat that wash midsummer sky;
Sea-violins that play along the sands.
3. Prayers for wind
Let the winds come,
And bury our feet in the sands of seven deserts;
Let strong breezes rise,
Washing our ears with the far-off sounds of the foam.
Let there be between our faces
Green turf and a branch or two of back-tossed trees;
Set firmly over questioning hearts
The deep unquenchable answer of the wind.
4. The enduring
If the autumn ended
Ere the birds flew southward,
If in the cold with weary throats
They vainly strove to sing,
Winter would be eternal;
Leaf and bush and blossom
Would never once more riot
In the spring.
If remembrance ended
When life and love are gathered,
If the world were not living
Long after one is gone,
Song would not ring, nor sorrow
Stand at the door in evening;
Life would vanish and slacken,
Men would be changed to stone.
But there will be autumn’s bounty
Dropping upon our weariness,
There will be hopes unspoken
And joys to haunt us still;
There will be dawn and sunset
Though we have cast the world away,
And the leaves dancing
Over the hill.
beech trees below Lodge Hill, Wycombe, England
Tim S. Addison, 2006
Programming Suggestion: If an oboist is to be engaged, you might also wish to consider programming
The Dark Hills by Jenni Brandon,
and/or Four Pastorales by Cecil Effinger.
timeless islands, Orkney, Scotland
Skara Brae, Orkney (Neolithic)
Brough of Birsay, Orkney (Pictish & Viking)
door, St. Magnus cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney
All Orkney images: Peter Bird, 2004