The Orchard on the Slope

4 min
SSA a cappella
Text: Raymond Knister (public domain)
email composer for score

Commissioned by the Oriana Women’s Choir (Toronto)

Raymond Knister:

Novelist, short-story writer, and poet, John Raymond Knister was born in 1899 at Ruscomb, near Stoney Point, Lake St. Clair, where he drowned while swimming in August 1932. He left his widow Myrtle Gamble and a daughter Imogen Givens. Educated at Victoria College, University of Toronto, and Iowa State University, Knister made a sparse living first on his father’s farm near Blenheim, Ontario, and then as a journalist, man of letters, and editorial staff member of Ryerson Press. He lived in Chicago, Toronto, Hanlan’s Point, Port Dover, and Montreal. His two published novels are White Narcissus (1929) and My Star Predominant, the latter about the last years of the John Keats. Knister edited Canadian Short Stories in 1928. It was left to others to collect and publish his imagistic poetry: Dorothy Livesay in Collected Poems (1949), and David Arnason in Raymond Knister: Poems, Stories, and Essays (1975). Anne Burke published Raymond Knister: An Annotated Bibliography in 1981.


Poem in complete unabridged form:

Thin ridges of land unploughed Along the tree-rows
Covered with long cream grasses Wind-torn.

Brown sand between them, Blue boughs above.
… .
Row and row of waves ever In the breaking;

Ever in arching and convulsed Imminence;
Roll of muddy sea between; Low clouds down-pressing And pallid and streaming rain.

Notes from the composer:

This poem is in the imagist style. The composition alternates non text with text, this juxtaposition is meant to suggest to the listener that there is something beyond the immediate; an alternation of imagined verses reality. The music is presented without text first, transporting the listener somewhere else, they are then comforted by the same, or familiar music with text from the poem which offers another image to ponder. “The Orchard on the Slope” is a musical reflection, offering a moment of repose in our world.