The Flight of Song

Skempton, Howard

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Sample score



10m 00s


Oxford University Press




Voices Only


sop, alt, ten, bas


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About the work

The work is comprised of settings of four poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: The Arrow and the Song, Becalmed, Chimes and The Tide Rises, and the Tide Falls. The third of these is for female voices; the others for mixed voices. The title is taken from the second verse of The Arrow and the Song: The setting of the opening verse ( I shot an arrow into the air) of this first poem takes the form of a graphic score realised by my brother, Trevor Skempton, from a skeletal sketch which embellishes the Longfellow with fragments from Shakespeare, Shelley, Tennyson, Browning, Dryden, Milton, Wordsworth, Blake, Burns and Coleridge. Such a departure from the norm struck me as a possibility during a spell in hospital earlier this year. It struck me (and this must have been due more to my state of mind than to the acoustics of the ward) that everything was equally audible but nothing was comprehensible.

First Performance: CoMA Summer School Choir, Aug 1996, Bretton Hall, West Yorkshire


COMA (with funds from the Arts Council of England)