Unison Choir, SAB choir and SATB choir with Piano

10 min duration

Commissioned by the Kingston Chamber Choir

Text: Walt Whitman (public domain)

on the beach at night score cover

The work is divided into three sections. The opening movement “On the beach at night” sets the tone and atmosphere for the work. It uses the SAB and SATB choirs with piano. The flowing bisbigliando-like piano gesture lays a groundwork for the music which explores various textures from within the ensemble. Some singers have non textual lines (ahs) while others sing poetry. Each phrase varies in its instrumentation creating new colours as altos of one ensemble are joined by sopranos of the other, and so on. At other times, the choirs sing in a more responsorial fashion (call and response) back to each other.

“Weep Not” is an a cappella motet sung by the SATB choir. The middle movement offers moments of repose and inward thought. The music alternates hymn-like chorale writing with more improvisatory chant like gestures.

The third section “Something there is” is a rhapsodic culmination of contrapuntal lines which weave and swirl around as if to emulate the night sky. The Unison choir joins the other two ensembles in this movement, singing an ostinato gesture on which the music evolves and builds.

The work speaks to the transcendent nature of humanity. In the poem, the girl sees possible limitations in her world. The father sees beyond these limitations, he sees the infinite possibilities. The “something more immortal” is the hope we have in the world, the hope that a child can, and will grow up to see beyond limitations. The depth of the poem is visualized using the flickering clouds and night sky, musically this is captured through the flowing piano gesture and weaving contrapuntal vocal lines.

Text: (adapted by the composer, presented here in unabridged form).

On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father, Watching the east, the autumn sky.

Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading, Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.

From the beach the child holding the hand of her father, Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to devour all, Watching, silently weeps.

Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears,
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in apparition,
Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the Pleiades shall emerge, They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure,
The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall again shine.

Then dearest child mournest thou only for Jupiter? Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?

Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,) Something there is more immortal even than the stars, (Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,) Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter Longer than sun or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades.

SATB a cappella
text by Marjorie Pickthall (public domain)
3 min duration
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commissioned by the Three Choir Festival: Georgetown Bach Chorale, Grand River Chorus and the Bach Elgar Choir

SERENADE

Marjorie Pickthall: a Book of Remembrance, by Lorne Pierce. The Ryerson Press, Toronto, 1925

Dark is the iris meadow,
Dark is the ivory tower,
And lightly the young moth’s shadow Sleeps on the passion-flower.

Gone are our day’s red roses,
 So lovely and lost and few,
 But the first star uncloses

A silver bud in the blue.


Night, and a flame in the embers Where the seal of the years was set,— When the almond-bough remembers How shall my heart forget?

4 min
SSA a cappella
Text: Raymond Knister (public domain)
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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.

[https://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poets/knister-raymond]

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.

two part voices a cappella

2 min duration

text by Raymond Knister

Pavane 2021 {email composer for copy}

Commissioned by the Amabile Choirs of London, Canada

This work should be performed as fast as musically possible. The repetitive nature of the poem, and the poems subject matter informs the style and musical gestures of the composition.

Raymond Knister was a Canadian poet known for his work on themes of rural life, “Plowman’s Song” speaks to this theme. Dorothy Livesay wrote “Knister seemed to epitomize the struggle of a generation” and his work “showed the effects of the many forces which were changing Canadian society”

“Plowman’s Song” R. Knister {public domain}

Turn under, plow, My trouble; Turn under griefs And stubble.

Turn mouse’s nest, Gnawing years; Old roots up For love’s new tears.

Turn, plow, the clods For new thunder. Turn under, plow, Turn under.

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SATB a cappella (no divisi)

Commissioned by Bishop Watterson High School, Ohio USA [Ryan Jenkins]

3 min

Text by Marjorie Pickthall

“The Road I Trod” is an anthem for mixed chorus, with no divisi. It features a unison opening which presents the melody clearly. The tenors and basses enter on a drone while the soprano and alto sing the melody again, in a canon. The voices join together at the cadence to bringing a sense of closure. The work develops with an imitative section with staggered entries of each section culminating in a final passage with expressive swells in the soprano, tenor and bass while the alto sings the melody again.

The anthem speaks to themes about home, joy, love, togetherness and finding comfort in faith. The canonic texture speaks to images of wandering, and longing, while the homophonic cadences reassure us, a coming together in completeness. The imitative sections bring about ideas of loss of faith and questioning of faith – journeying. Again, the homophonic cadential ideas warm us and put us back together, they heal us.

The text is an excerpt from British born, Canadian poet Marjorie Pickthall. The poem “Going Home” in the public domain worldwide.

TEXT: O, had your hand been in my hand
As the long chalk-road I trod,
The green hills of the lovely land
Had seemed the hills of God.

**CANCELLED DUE TO COVID 19 VIRUS PER UNIVERSITY RULES**

Matthew Emery’s DMA Composition Recital featuring music inspired by architecture.

“Buildings” for chamber ensemble and “Barren Cabin, Tin Roof” for chamber ensemble and mixed chorus.

Performers: The Elmer Iseler Singers – Lydia Adams, Marie Bérard [violin], Eric Abramovitz [clarinet], Leslie Newman [flute], Jamie Drake [percussion], and Yvonne Choi [piano]

March 29th, 5:00pm, Free Admission. St. Anne’s Anglican Church (Toronto)

Facebook Event Link

The Crane Is My Neighbour

Unison Voices and Piano

Boosey and Hawkes 2019

Purchase/see score


The bird is a noble, he turns to the sky for a theme,
And the ripples are thoughts coming out to the edge of a dream.
How patient he is as he puts out his wings for the blue!
His eyes are as old as the twilight, and calm as the dew.
The bird is my neighbour, he leaves not a claim for a sigh,
He moves as the guest of the sunlight-he roams in the sky.
The bird is a noble, he turns to the sky for a theme,
And the ripples are thoughts coming out to the edge of a dream.
John Shaw Neilson (1872-1942)


Neilson’s poem speaks to something that is immortal, a companion to guide us through life. The unison voices are independent from the accompaniment and provide an important opportunity for your singers to develop strong musicianship.