The piece combines two distinct texts: Victor Carell’s poem of 1992 entitled Voice of the River, and excerpts from a hymn of circa 1170 – 1200 entitled The Dulcis Jesu Memoria, penned by an anonymous (possibly English Cistercian) hymn writer.
Victor Carell’s Voice of the River, a poem of three verses, draws on a series of images which address “love” as it is found in some of its myriad manifestations. The poet’s images, which are always striking in their beauty, speak of “You” – as “the voice of the river…”, “the hymn of the trees …”, “a song from the heart…”, – and each stanza concludes with the words “You are love.” The imaginative exuberance with which the poem conveys images like these, inspired the rhythmic and joyfully spirited nature of the musical setting. The settings of the three stanzas are heard at the beginning of the piece in close succession, later being repeated individually, between verses of the second text.
The Dulcis Jesu Memoria, written around eight centuries before Carell’s Voice of the River, and from which my composition draws three verses, is concerned with the joys and frustrations encountered by the hymnist in searching for the object of his adoration: Jesu. The three verses draw on further striking images to convey the hymnist’s feelings. As with the images in Victor Carell’s poem, it was, in particular, the hymnist’s allusion to music – “Jesu decus angelicum, In aure dulce canticum”- that secured the place of this hymn in my composition. The three verses, distinguished by their Latin text, inspired a gently moving, calm but passionate musical setting exhibiting an accompanimental texture formed by voices humming.
Since the work’s premiere in 1997 by St Peters Chorale, the work has travelled the world, enjoying performances by many choirs, such as:
• The Brisbane Chamber Choir, directed by Graeme Morton
• The Canberra Youth Singers, directed by Dominic Harvey
• The Australian Boys’ Choir and The Vocal Consort, directed by Noel Ancell
• The Lebanon Valley College Concert Choir (Pennsylvania, USA)
• Polyphony, directed by Kirk Hume
• Peninsula Cantare, directed by Janice Gunderson (Redwood City, CA, USA)
• Plus many more…