A Shout (January 2005) for Soprano Soloist, Women’s Choir and Piano
Specially written for Jean Cumming’s choir and as an “In Memoriam Bill Cumming” who was sadly run over by a young speadster in Christchurch in 2003. We got to know the Cummings on one of our first trips to Europe when the children were very young. They also had two children of much the same age (also a Fiona Jane!). At that time Bill said how he had been influenced by the painting and ideas of Paul Klee, whose work he’d got to know well through a course given by Michael Harlow—Michael had worked for Adult Education in his early days in New Zealand. It was therefore appropriate to use texts by Michael in the piece—texts, which were about Klee (see no. 1 below):
‘Taking a line for a walk’, you find your way through the deepening dark, and all our conversations are with the living and the dead— and the dark is light enough to hold you still—you are listening for that shout of green
Listening for that shout of green, your ‘devotion to the small’ so little being said, so much being meant; and the dark is light enough to hold you still—and you know, entering the day you would be most alive when you died, taking a line for a walk, some few years from now, trees will be called very important people.
Such sweet singing sips Of aire, everywhere Αυδονι [‘ayedhóni] How she ‘consorts with flowers To make her yellow honey’: In the dark hold of the hive, Αυδονι, fill the heart with gold
Chit, Chatter-bird such nattering all the day-long the nightlong ‘as when the clamour of cranes goes high to the heavens’, so unstoppably non-stop, and so unprettily rowdy roistering song you would think, wouldn’t you, there are no full-stops in heaven
Opening your arms: the first full sun of winter; light falls, the fine calligraphy of trees waiting for that shout of green
Mariner’s star this bright flower of sun, like a stunned bee in the small hour of your hand waking from its
hive, the gold the dark has been keeping, inside the ‘mind’s tenderness to the heart’, waiting for that shout of green.
The first performance was originally to have been about the same time as the reading of the Rothko Variations and we would have visited Christchurch during this NZ trip to hear it but it was adjourned until early 2006 so we thought we would miss it.
19.04.2006, Jean Cumming wrote a sad letter, she had had to leave her choir:
… I have had to resign from my conductorship of the Cecelian Singers … Some of the members were threatening to resign from the choir because of my choice of music and also that I demanded too much etc. etc. …
I am so very sorry. I feel that I have let both you and William down. But I hope in the future to find a choir to perform and record A Shout. I was so excited about the work and wrapped up with the whole concept that I failed to take on board the commitment of the choir to what was a personal dedication for me. I know you will understand, but I still feel bad about it all …