Our orphan souls

for Bass-baritone soloist, SATB choir, alto saxophone, double-bass, percussion (1 player: vibraphone & unpitched instruments)
12 mins.
Aug 2014

awaiting publication by Gonzaga

A setting of words taken from Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville. Commissioned jointly by University of Wisconsin, Whitewater and Temple University, Philadelphia. Premiere in Philadelphia November 2014; in Wisconsin performances on April 18th and 19th 2015, conducted by Bob Gehrenbeck (details to follow)


Our orphan souls


CHOIR:    It was a clear, steel-blue day.

The firmaments of air and sea

Were hardly separable in that all-pervading azure;

The pensive air was pure and soft,

And the sea heaved with strong, lingering swells.

AHAB:    Would to God these blessed calms would last!

But the mingled, mingling threads of life

Are woven by warp and woof:

Calms crossed by storms; a storm for every calm.

CHOIR:    Hither and thither, on high,

Glided the snow-white wings of birds.

But to and fro in the deeps,

Far down in the bottomless blue,

Rushed mighty leviathans, sword-fish, and sharks –

The murderous thinkings of the sea.

AHAB:    In what rapt ether sails the world,

Of which the weariest will never weary?

Where lies the final harbour,

Whence we unmoor no more?

CHOIR:    Over these sea-pastures the waves rise and fall,

And ebb and flow unceasingly.

AHAB:    Where is the foundling’s father hidden?

CHOIR:    Millions of shades and shadows lie dreaming,

Tossing like slumberers in their beds.

AHAB:    Our souls are like those orphans

Whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them.

CHOIR: Drowned dreams,

Lives and souls . . .

AHAB:    The secret of our paternity lies in their grave,

And we must there to learn it.

CHOIR:    Our orphan souls . . .


Herman Melville  (Moby-Dick, chapters 111, 114, 132)