O Great Beyond

I. In Your Eyes
II. In a Strange Land
III. In Silence

SATB divisi, soprano solo | Duration c. 13'00”

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O Great Beyond was commissioned by JAM (the John Armitage Memorial) and first performed by the BBC Singers and Nicholas Cleobury on July 8th, 2016, as part of the JAM on the Marsh festival. The text is taken from The Gardener, a collection of verse by the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941). Published one year after Tagore’s Nobel Prize-winning collection of spiritual poems, Gitanjali (1912), The Gardener contains poems that were written much earlier in his career. Tagore retrospectively described this collection as the “lyrics of love and life.” The musical narrative of O Great Beyond is meant to mirror the stages of love portrayed in The Gardener, culminating in the desire for a “Beautiful End” in the final movement.

I. In Your Eyes —Verse 31
My heart, the bird of the wilderness, has found its sky in your eyes.
Tey are the cradle of the morning, they are the kingdom of the stars.
My songs are lost in their depths.
Let me but soar in that sky, in its lonely immensity.
Let me but cleave its clouds and spread wings in its sunshine.

II. In a Strange Land —Verse 5
I am restless. I am athirst for far-away things.
My soul goes out in a longing to touch the skirt of the dim distance.
O Great Beyond, O the keen call of thy flute!
I forget, I ever forget, that I have no wings to fly, and I am bound in this spot evermore.

I am eager and wakeful, I am a stranger in a strange land.
Ty breath comes to me whispering an impossible hope.
Ty tongue is known to my heart as its very own.
O Far-to-seek, O the keen call of thy flute!
I forget, I ever forget, that I know not the way, that I have not the winged horse.

I am listless, I am a wanderer in my heart.
In the sunny haze of the languid hours, what vast vision of thine takes shape in the blue of the sky!
O Farthest End, O the keen call of thy flute!
I forget, I ever forget, that the gates are shut everywhere in the house where I dwell alone!

III. In Silence —Verse 61
Peace, my heart, let the time for the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain into songs.
Let the last touch of your hands be gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a moment, and say your last words in silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp to light you on your way.

—Rabindranath Tagore, The Gardener, 1913