Up-Hill

This is another piece written for Song Cycle, a big project of mine this summer. The text was suggested by the Revd Canon Kathryn Fleming, due to be installed at Coventry Cathedral on 31st May, and I’m very pleased with how it has turned out.

– Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
– Yes, to the very end.
– Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
– From morn to night, my friend.

– But is there for the night a resting-place?
– A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
– May not the darkness hide it from my face?
– You cannot miss that inn.

– Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
– Those who have gone before.
– Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
– They will not keep you standing at that door.

– Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
– Of labour you shall find the sum.
– Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
– Yea, beds for all who come.

— Christina Rossetti

As usual, the piece is available from the Choral Public Domain Library, aka ChoralWiki, under a CC BY-SA licence: you can do what you like with it, even for profit, so long as a) you acknowledge me as composer and b) you release any derivative works under a similar licence. There is a PDF and a MIDI file, which should give some idea what it sounds like.

It’s meant to be sung antiphonally, preferably with one voice on one side of the venue and the other on the other. The humming and ah-ing is relatively flexible: I have “mmm” in the second part and “ahh” in the first because I am singing the second part and I have a bigger voice than the person who is singing first but there’s no reason to keep it that way if you don’t want to. Another way to perform it, particularly in a larger choir, might be to give each line with words to a different soloist or small group, while the rest of the choir hums the accompanying part, so that the questions and answers aren’t always coming from the same direction.

If you’d like to hear this live, it will be performed for the first time this Saturday, 2.30pm, at St Andrew’s Leytonstone, Colworth Rd, E11 1JD. Tickets are £5 and are available from Eventbrite, or just turn up and pay at the door. Half the proceeds will go to the St Andrew’s Organ Fund, and the other half will go toward some lunch money for the Song Cycle bike pilgrimage this summer. We’ll also be singing “Give me my scallop-shell of quiet” and there will be some other songs and some organ music — Brahms, and some Stanley, since he lived very near where St Andrew’s now is. There will be some light refreshments, and if you want to know more about the bike pilgrimage it’s a good time to meet some of us and have a chat.

If you can’t make it this Saturday you can still support me in other ways, or donate to the Organ Fund using the Liturgical Hair JustGiving page. As usual, this work wasn’t on commission, so I am only getting paid for it because of my five lovely patrons at Patreon. If you pledge $3 per new work, I’ll send you a postcard with a unique tune on it; more on this next week.

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