Saint's Day


for a capella choir

Composition Date: 2016

poem 'April the Sixteenth' by George Mackay Brown

Information:

Written in memory of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

Commissioned by Lorimer Productions with support from Creative Scotland, and first performed by Cappella Nova, directed by Alan Taverner, on 31st August 2016 in Dunfermline Abbey, as part of their 'Echoes and Traces' project.

Programme Note:

SAINT'S DAY

for a capella choir

SALLY BEAMISH 2016

poem 'April the Sixteenth' by George Mackay Brown

in memory of Max

April the Sixteenth

What have they brought to the saint?

The shepherds a fleece.

That winter many lambs were born in the snow.

What did the dark ones bring?

To Magnus the tinkers have brought

A new bright can. Their hammers beat all night.

What have they brought to the saint?

A fishless fisherman

Spread his torn net at the wall of the church.

And the farm boys offered

A sweetness, gaiety, chasteness

Of hymning mouths.

The women came to their martyr

With woven things

And salt butter for the poor of the island.

And the poor of the island

Came with their hungers,

Then went hovelwards with crossed hands over the hill.

George Mackay Brown

from Collected Poems (John Murray, 2005), by permission of Brian Murray,

Executor for the Estate of George Mackay Brown.

This work was commissioned as part of a collection of new works inspired in some way by the ancient Nobilis Humilis – the Hymn to St Magnus. The Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown wrote: 'The essence of Orkney's magic is silence, loneliness and the deep marvellous rhythms of sea and land, darkness and light.' I chose this poem about St Magnus' Saint's day because it seems to embody those rhythms. In my setting, there are passing references to the parallel thirds from the Nobilis Humilis hymn, which become stronger as the piece draws to a close.

Saint's Day is dedicated to my friend and mentor, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who died in March 2016. It was commissioned by Lorimer Productions with support from Creative Scotland, and first performed by Cappella Nova, directed by Alan Taverner, on 31st August 2016 in Dunfermline Abbey, as part of their 'Echoes and Traces' project.

Sally Beamish 2016

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