Between the downs and the sky

SAB and Piano
S(S)A and Piano
T(B)B and Piano, this version commissioned by Newman Sound Men’s Choir, premiered Nov 2022.

4 min duration

text by Marjorie Pickthall (public domain worldwide)

Email me for score purchase ($2 per member in the ensemble)

A note on voicing: this composition is flexible, for equal voiced groups, it works in a 2 part, or 2 part with optional third; it also works well as a SAB for mixed groups, this work is very accessible both the piano and vocal lines.

Text: excerpt from “Brading” by Marjorie Pickthall [in public domain]

Here, where the legions parted; Here, where the shields were laid, Wild orchid, honey-hearted, Grows in the wind-swept shade.

Here, where the soldiers rested; Here, where they set their spears, The little larks, brown-breasted, Fall down like falling tears.

Here, where the swords came after; Here, where the ships went by,
The sea-winds send their laughter Between the downs and the sky.

Program note:
“Between the downs and the sky” is a meditation on the text, and notion of “here”. Reflective and commemorative in nature, the poem speaks to themes of remembrance and our shared connections to humanity translated through the natural world. Pickthall pairs anthropomorphized images of nature against the impacts of human violence and strife.

I am drawn to the location-less setting of “here”. We are left with a certain placeless-ness in the poem. “Here” could mean anywhere and everywhere; it could also mean right in front of us in this exact moment. “Here” is also a call to attention, here where we witness, where we notice, where we are called to. Here, where we love, where we mourn, where we hope to become whole.

The work moves in and out of unison, two part, and optional three part writing; from measure forty-five to the end, the middle line second soprano part is completely optional. The music functions the same with or without the inner voice part. This is done to aid in the accessibility of the work, to make the music as approachable and successful to groups of all abilities.

Musically, “here” is metamorphosed through various ostinati gestures as if to depict memory, reflections, echoes which reverberate long after the initial source, a heart beat, relentless waves pounding shores, etc. The work also juxtaposes extreme high and low registers particularly in the piano writing to capture the title image of the “here” found in-between the downs and the sky.

TTB midi mock up