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This short cycle was written to mark the 60th birthday of Auckland conductor John Rosser, whose choir Viva Voce had performed many works of mine over the choir’s 32-year existence. The choir was known for its ‘theme’ concerts, and the final concert in its 2017 season was titled Family Matters, hence this cycle of family-related pieces. The four poems that more overtly centre on family members are framed by two more general poems which meditate on life and death.
The title of the first text, by seventeenth century poet Henry King, might be translated as 'Such is Life'. The poet muses on the brevity of man’s life, and that we should make the most of the time we have. The final four lines are used as a repeating stanza which underpins the rest of the poem sung by the sopranos.
Father, the second text, is by American poet and author Tom Sheehan, and is a simple poem in praise of one’s father. This is followed by one of Margaret Mahy’s best-known short poems, where the poet tells of her sister who is 'remarkably light'.
The fourth text is by nineteenth century poet Thomas Hood, whose poem I Remember, I Remember has the poet recalling the days of his childhood and making passing mention of his brother. The fifth poem is by contemporary British poet Jacqueline Saphra, and is a humorous listing of all the items used by a woman to make herself beautiful. This 'bathroom armoury' and the ‘tricks’ involved might one day be passed on to her daughter.
The final movement sets the well-known poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Crossing the Bar. Life’s end is likened to setting out to sea, and there is the hope that no sand bar will impeded the journey. The poet describes an accepting and placid approach to death, and retains the hope that he will look upon the face of his 'Pilot' when he has crossed the bar.
For John Rosser on the occasion of his 60th birthday
- Sic Vita
- My Sister
- I Remember, I Remember
- My Mother's Bathroom Armoury
- Crossing the Bar
- Henry King
- Tom Sheehan
- Margaret Mahy
- Thomas Hood
- Jacqueline Saphra (used with the kind permission of the poet)
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson