by Christine Donkin

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This Fragile Web was commissioned by Ardelle Ries, director of The Augustana Choir in Camrose, AB, and was premiered in April 2014. It is a setting of three poems by Canadian poet E. Pauline Johnson (1861-1913). Johnson’s delicate, intimate poems (inscribed “to one beyond the seas”) make frequent connections between music and nature, which I have tried to echo in this setting.

Autumn’s Orchestra
Know by the thread of music woven through
This fragile web, this fragile web of cadences I spin (cadences I spin),
That I have only caught these songs, I have only caught these songs
Since you voiced them
Upon your haunting violin.
This fragile web, this fragile web of cadences I spin (of cadences I spin)…

The Firs
There is a lonely minor chord that sings
Faintly and far along the forest ways,
When the first finger faintly, when the firs finger faintly
On the strings of that rare violin, that rare violin the night wind plays.
Just as it whispered once to you and me
Beneath the English pines beyond the sea.

Vesper Hymn
The cedar trees have sung their vesper hymn,
And now the music sleeps –
Its benediction falling where the dim
Dusk of forest creeps.
Mute grows the great concerto – and the light
Of day is darkening, Good-night, Good-night.
But through the night time I shall hear within
The murmur of these trees.
The calling of your distant violin
Sobbing across the seas,
And waking wind, and star-reflected light

Shall voice my answering. Good-night, Goodnight.

poems by Pauline Johnson (1861 – 1913)




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