The year following the performance of Reading Gaol, and at Nelson Wattie’s suggestion, I made a setting of Dylan Thomas’s famous poem:
Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
It was for baritone and a wind and percussion ensemble and it was in strict 12 tone technique with no support from the instruments for the poor singer. Worse still I was expected to conduct it. All involved were very good, but the work was very difficult and it was not made any easier having such an inexperienced conductor. The conductor James Robertson arrived unexpectedly at the school and was present at the performance. At the end he jumped to his feet and called out with his very British accent: “Could we hear that again?” We were rather stunned but of course we obliged and it seemed to me that the second performance sounded totally different from the first. What James Robertson thought we sadly (or perhaps fortunately) never heard.