SONGS with orchestra

above: photograph of the composer in 1996 by Tony Parry
On the seashore of endless worlds


The passacaglia On the seashore of endless worlds was commissioned by Sheila Searchfield and Ray Lewis and was first performed by them with the Orpington Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Davis.  The scoring has mezzo-soprano and flute accompanied by double woodwind and brass but without orchestral flutes. The main passacaglia theme is stated at the outset and returns faithfully, if not entirely classically, in every group of four bars. Towards the end of the work is an extensive flute cadenza, notated by the composer, which is played over a series of string chords each of which incorporates all the notes of the passacaglia theme and which then move (in four-bar phrases) from one key to the next in order of the passacaglia theme. The unchanging passacaglia theme itself represents the ocean, while the orchestra depicts its changing moods and the flute the children playing unheeding on its margins.


On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. The infinite sky is motionless overhead, and the restless water is boisterous.  On the seashore of endless worlds children meet with shouts and dances.


They build their houses with sand and they play with empty shells.  With withered leaves they build their boats and silently float them on the vast deep.  Children have their play on the seashore of endless worlds.


They know not how to swim, they know not how to cast nets.  Pearl-fishers dive for pearls, merchants sail in their ships, while children gather pebbles and scatter them again.  They seek not for hidden treasures, they know not how to cast nets.


The sea surges up with laughter and pale gleams the smile of the sea-beach. Death-dealing waters sing meaningless ballads to the children, even like a mother while rocking her baby’s cradle. The sea plays with children, and pale gleams the smile of the sea-beach.

On the seashore of endless worlds children meet.  Tempest roams in the pathless sky, ships are wrecked in the trackless waters, death is abroad, and children play. On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of children.

These are settings for two male or female voices (one low, one middle register) and large orchestra of a series of verses written between 2008 and 2011 . All the songs are intended to be sung with amplified voices and were designed with untrained voices in mind, but can also be performed by classical singers with piano accompaniment.




Counterpoint was the last of the songs with chamber accompaniment commissioned by Sheila Searchfield, and was first performed by her in Pontypridd as part of a double bill with The Dialogues of Óisin and Saint Patric in July 1979.  The scoring of this poem by Walt Whitman is for a substantial ensemble of flute, two clarinets, tenor saxophone, string quartet, percussion and harp.


    That music always round me, unceasing, unbeginning, yet long untaught I did not hear,

but now the music I hear and am elated,

a tenor, strong, ascending with power and health, with the glad notes of daybreak I hear,

a soprano at intervals sailing buoyantly over the tops of immense waves,

a transparent base shuddering lusciously under and through the universe,

the triumphant tutti, the funereal wailings with sweet flutes and violins,

all these I fill myself with,

I hear not the volumes of sound merely, I am moved by the exquisite meanings,

I listen to the different voices winding in and out, striving,

contending with fiery vehemence to excel each other in emotion;

I do not think the performers know themselves, but now I think I begin to understand them.





These two songs have highly disparate origins, and were written at different times.

The first is an original setting of Housman in popular folk style, where the material later found its way somewhat incongruously into the fifth scene of Beren and Lúthien. The second was written specifically as a ‘pop’ number for the abortive musical Golden—as was other material which later was incorporated into The Children of Húrin, the beginning of the fourth and seventh scenes in particular.


    The colour of his hair                       A E Housman


        Oh, who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?

And what has he been after that they groan and shake their fists?

And wherefore is he wearing such a melancholy air?

Oh, they’re taking him to prison for the colour of his hair.


’Tis a shame to human nature, such a head of hair as his;

in the good old time ’twas hanging for the colour that it is,

though hanging isn’t good enough, and flaying would be fair

for the nameless and abominable colour of his hair.


Oh, a deal of pain he’s taken and a pretty price he’s paid

to hide his poll or dye it of a mentionable shade;

but they’ve pulled the beggar’s hat off for the world to see and stare

and they’re taking him to prison for the colour of his hair.


Now ’tis oakum for his fingers and the treadmill for his feet

and the quarry gang on Portland in the cold and in the heat,

and between his spells of labour, in the time he has to spare

    he can curse his God that made him for the colour of his hair.


Sunsong                                                                     James Elliott


        Come then to me. The Stars are high,

        the Earth is deep, the Moon drops dew;

        swift Hermes floats along the sky

        from Love to me, from me to you.

        Till I return, I question still

        if any of my dreams be true?

        That none are so I know full well,

        and yet I ever long for you.


        Come then to me, and you and I

        maybe shall know when we are one;

        there is a sheltering, the Sky;

        there is a centre, called the Sun.

        Separate Life and separate Will

        leave something still in our desire;

        look! on the high Olympian Hill

        the Sun burns on, a single fire.


        A single flame fill all the earth,

        a single Sun fill all the blue;

        a single Death, a single Birth

        suffice us not.  Let me with you

        discover if there be a way

        separate from that path above

        the plains of earth.  The High Gods say

        there is a way: the way of love.