After I handed in my masters portfolio in mid-July, I got started on a commissioned piece for Auckland-based chamber choir Cantorum.
The commission is for a piece between four to six minutes in length for a cappella SATB choir, suitable to be performed at a Christmas concert. Before I started searching for a text, I had the pleasure of going along to one of Cantorum’s rehearsals and that really helped me to get a feel for the group and the direction in which I might take the piece.
The text that I chose for the commission, in collaboration with the choir’s musical director Anita, is a poem called Snow Song, published in 1897 by poet Frank Dempster Sherman (1860-1916). It paints a beautiful picture of the wintry countryside and the language has an inherent musicality that drew me in as soon as I read it. It also has a festive, joyful nature which brings back fond memories of Christmas 2016 which I spent in Canada – my first and only winter Christmas, something we are sadly bereft of here in Aotearoa!.
After I hand over the score at the start of September the choir will begin rehearsing it, when Covid allows, in preparation for its scheduled premiere at Christmas with Cantorum, 11 December 2021 at All Saints Church, Ponsonby. Whether or not the concert goes ahead this year will depend on how the Covid alert levels play out in the coming weeks, but either way it will eventually be performed!
Whenever it does take place, I’m looking forward to the performance and will be sure to film it so I can share it with you.
Frank Dempster Sherman
Over valley, over hill,
Hark, the shepherd piping shrill!
Driving all the white flocks forth
From the far folds of the North.
Blow, Wind, blow ;
Weird melodies you play,
Following your flocks that go
Across the world to-day.
How they hurry, how they crowd
When they hear the music loud
Grove and lane and meadow full
Sparkle with their shining wool.
Blow, Wind, blow
Until the forests ring:
Teach the eaves the tunes you know,
And make the chimney sing!
Hither, thither, up and down
Every highway of the town,
Huddling close, the white flocks all
Gather at the shepherd s call.
Blow, Wind, blow
Upon your pipes of joy;
All your sheep the flakes of snow
And you their shepherd boy!