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- Never weather-beaten sail
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for mixed choir (SATB) a cappella
Text: English (Thomas Campion)
Thomas Campion’s Never weather-beaten sail is a sprightly text that powerfully evokes the sailor’s plea for God’s calming presence upon the sea’s unrelenting rushing waves. Thus the jaunty alto/tenor movement in thirds symbolises the curling waves of the undulating sea; the mellifluous soprano melody represents the boat’s sails; the bass section’s never-changing ‘A’ provides the anchor. All four voices then come together in homophony, urging God to “come quickly...and take my soul to rest”.
Rather than a simple repetition of thematic material in the manner of a standard hymn, I have swapped the harmonies amongst the voice parts to create a different textural experience for the listener. The voice parts again sing homophonically as their plea for God to “raise my sprite to Thee” intensifies. In the concluding bars, the lower voices repeat “never weather-beaten sail”, while the sopranos reiterate the words “to Thee”, all gradually fading away in the distance, leaving what seems like a lone voice in the wilderness to cry “to Thee”, which fades to nothing. This portrays the notion that while the journey may be over for the listener and performer, there are those who have not yet completed their uncertain voyage, who pray to God for His blessing in allowing them to safely return home.
Never weather-beaten sail more willing bent to shore,
Never tired pilgrim’s limbs affected slumber more.
Than my wearied sprite now longs to fly out of my troubled breast:
O come quickly, sweetest Lord, and take my soul to rest.
Ever blooming are the joys of Heaven’s high Paradise,
Cold age deafs not there our ears nor vapour dims our eyes.
Glory there the sun outshines whose beams the blessed only see:
O come quickly, glorious Lord, and raise my sprite to Thee.
Welsh composer Gareth Treseder has written numerous sacred compositions alongside his work as a London-based tenor for the Monteverdi Choir, BBC Singers, RSVP Voices, and St Margaret’s Church Westminster Abbey. Recent premieres include A Safe Stronghold, a co-commission alongside Lars Schwarze for London’s Temple Church Choir to commemorate the outbreak of World War One, and a liturgical premiere of Never weather-beaten sail performed by the choir of St Paul’s Church K Street in Washington DC. In May 2015, a set of songs based on texts by Joseph Addison for voice and piano entitled Hope: An Addison Cycle was premiered by Eleanor Minney and Michael Waldron. He has also written two arias for a new Little Rooms Productions opera: Arcana Part 2, which was premiered in Bristol Bierkeller Theatre in the same month.
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