Crossing the Bar (Alfred, Lord Tenyson)
I remember, as a young teenager, being deeply moved by my first encounter of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s iconic ode “Crossing the Bar”. The imagery it stirs up, the sense of peace it evokes, and the thoughts and questions it provokes remain to this day for me such a powerful, bright beacon in this journey we call life. I am hoping, as many others do, that at my last earthly breath, whenever that will be —there will only be peace, contentment, and gratitude.
The setting begins with cascading notes forming an aural backdrop for the “sunset and evening star”. The soothing yet melancholic textless motif (solo soprano) is the essence of the one being summoned. It longs for no sorrow, no mourning: this desire is echoed by multiple voices like gentle waves of the sea. And just as the speaker longs for a tide that is full and unagitated, the choral setting proceeds to paint broad strokes of hymn-like chords.
As the second half of the poem mirrors its first half, the choral setting almost seemingly (yet not exactly) mirrors the form/structure of its first half. This time this “longing” is expanded to a plaintive, seemingly nostalgic melody and is echoed by several soloists; this crescendos to a full, soaring tutti as it “crosses the bar”. The soothing, textless motif soars and disappears with the “tide”…and it’s memory, a remnant chord, is now only faintly heard at the end.
- Nilo Alcala
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C4: The Composer/Conductor Collective
June 7, 2018 at 8pm -- Baruch Performing Arts Center
June 9, 2018 at 8pm -- Church of Saint Luke in the Fields
more info: http://www.c4ensemble.org/june-2018-concerts.html
CROSSING THE BAR
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
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