Cantata for a Beloved Planet
for Chorus, SATB Soloists, and Large Orchestra (2005-2018)
by Ron Hannah

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    Here is an ambitious project! Ever since discovering
Carmina Burana as a teenager, I have wanted to write a large cantata, and at last I have! Here is a dithyramb to nature and man's uncertain place within it, a breathless setting of some terrific poetry about Earth, Sea and Sky. In form, it consists of 12 dramatic or lyrical pieces, with portions featuring each of the four soloists alone or together with the chorus, and interspersed with purely orchestral sections meant to describe said earth, sea, and sky... It has been a long time birthing.

 Spinifex Scherzo

  



I am very pleased at this stage of my life to feel at last the confidence to attempt such a work.

     Even so, it has been a daunting prospect, and I have delayed and dithered for years. In the initial flurry of enthusiasm I completed 4 movements, of a proposed (then) 20 or 30, then set it aside in favour of the simpler task of writing, oh, an opera, several works for smaller orchestral forces, and lots of choral and chamber music. At that earlier time I was in my world-wandering/backpacking phase, carrying with me a well-worn large pad of manuscript paper, but still managing to complete those 4 movements, even writing most of the first orchestral interlude while sitting comfortably in a camper van in the Outback of Australia. You can hear a computer-generated version of that movement, called "Spinifex Scherzo", and even download the full score, by clicking on the buttons. It was created using Logic Pro, and I must say my skills with that program seem to be growing - it almost sounds like a real orchestra! Spinifex, by the way, is the wild grass of Australia.

SPECIAL NOTICE TO SINGERS!:
     Three of the movements in this Cantata feature soloists, unmixed

Aria downloads
for Singers:








with chorus or other solo voices. I hereby offer piano versions as arias for recitals or for auditions and competitions. Singers often look for contemporary works for these purposes. Use them with my blessing, but please inform me so that I can keep my Performances page up-to-date.

THE MOVEMENTS ARE AS FOLLOWS:

  1. GOD'S WORLD - text by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) for alto solo and full orchestra, with a one-page addendum for soprano-words taken from Millay's poem, "Renascence" (piano version available at right)
  2. SONNET - text by Henry Lawson (1867-1922) - for tenor solo and full orchestra (piano version available at right)
  3. DEATH BY WATER - text by T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) - for full orchestra and large chorus
  4. A BEAM OF LIGHT - text by John Jerome Rooney (1866-1934) - for baritone solo, strings, and 2 percussionists (piano version available at right)
  5. THE DAWN COMES UP LIKE THUNDER - poem for orchestra inspired by Kipling's poem, "The Road to Mandalay".
  6. BEYOND KERGUELEN (An Antarctic Portrait) - text by Henry Kendall (1839 – 1882) - for full orchestra, SATB soloists, and chorus
  7. SPINIFEX SCHERZO - for full orchestra
  8. THE GIFT OF WATER - text by Hamlin Garland (1860 - 1940) - for tenor solo, chorus and full orchestra
  9. TIDES AND DEPTHS AND PEARLS - for full orchestra (with soprano obbligato)
  10. FLOTSAM - text by Andrea Mellis (1949 - ) for for full orchestra, SATB soloists, and chorus
  11. SKY ESSAY - for full orchestra
  12. NAHUALT POEM XXII - Translated by Daniel G. Brinton (1837-1899) - for full orchestra, SATB soloists, and chorus.

SYNOPSIS OF MOVEMENTS: (to download all texts, click here)

#1. God's World (Alto/Orchestra): An ecstatic crying out to Nature-cum-God, by the poet overwhelmed by the beauty of the world.
    #1a. Renascence: a single line from Millay's poem of that name, sung by a solo soprano (see #12 below).
#2. Sonnet (Tenor/Orchestra): The poet's wish to set down, however poorly, his transition from youthful rapture over nature to a more balanced but still magical sense of being.
#3. Death by Water (Chorus/Orchestra): A warning to sailors, and to everyone, of the dangers that lurk amid the beauty.
#4. A Beam of Light (Baritone/Strings/Percussion): a purely mystical evocation of the liberation to be found in the contemplation of a beam of starlight.
#5. The Dawn Comes Up Like Thunder: An orchestral poem, inspired by Kipling, featuring my idea of birdsong, and quoting a Chinese(?) song called "100 Birds Worshipping the Phoenix".
#6. Beyond Kerguelen (Soloists/Chorus/Orchestra): A 19th century view of Antarctica, in devastatingly dramatic verse (I hope I have done it justice!)
#7. Spinifex Scherzo (Orchestra): Written in the Outback, this is a picture of the wild grass of Australia climbing playfully up the hillsides. Only as you get closer do you perceive its formidable, cactus-like qualities.
#8. The Gift of Water (Tenor/Chorus/Orchestra): Man's co-operation for survival - a settler gets directions to a spring from an Indigenous man.
#9. Tides and Depths and Pearls (Orchestra/Choral Sopranos): an essay of the sea, with a quote from Debussy's "La Cathédrale Engloutie" (The Sunken Cathedral). The title is a line from a letter written by Vincent van Gogh.
#10. Flotsam - Lament for Children Washed Up on Mediterranean Shores (Soloists/Chorus/Orchestra): A sad song for the innocent dead, dead because of man's uncaringness.
#11. Sky Essay - Another orchestral poem. Lay back on a sunny hillside and watch the clouds drift by...
#12. Nahuatl Poem XXII (Soloists/Chorus/Orchestra): An Aztec poem of acceptance of nature's ways and in praise of flowers. "Let us be glad while we live..."
    #1a. Reprise God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on Thy heart!

     Even though I say this Cantata is completed, I may one day find a poem that cries out to be included - and I will likely include it! In fact, I wrote two additional movements which I later decided do not fit and so they are not listed here, and I confess I have also several other poems awaiting - will this Cantata ever be truly completed? Even so, I would appreciate any suggestions, especially of nature poetry that is not encumbered by copyright restrictions (ie. older poems or ones by living poets who are willing to give permission to use their work in such a way). Modern copyright laws are based on money, not on human values, and are preventing the creation of many a fine work. Many composers, and I am among them, write their masterpieces anyway, knowing that their music will outlive the bean counters. The poem "Death by Water" (#3), for instance, by T.S. Eliot: is it still under copyright? Is it under copyright in the U.S. but not in Europe? This country but not that one? Not being a copyright lawyer, I have no idea, and I doubt many such lawyers would know for certain either, and if this consideration prevents orchestras from performing the Cantata, or at least this portion of it, then so be it. I will not pay some publisher a fee for the use of a poet's work long before I myself have seen any financial reward for all this labour. Indeed I expect to receive nothing for it, or even necessarily to hear it in my lifetime.

     But enough bitching. This is a labour of love, pure and simple, one whose hundreds of hours of work I willingly, even joyfully, undertake for the benefit of my fellow man and for the preservation of my global home. Stay tuned... If you wish to view the full scores of any other movements, and hear computer-generated renditions of same, please send me an email (below). The score may also be obtained from the Canadian Music Centre.

    


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