Today, I am working on the final stages of my memorial composition to the fallen of the Battle of the Somme for the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra: ‘God’s Own Caught In No Man’s Land.’
It will close with a setting of a powerfully haunting poem by Winifred M. Letts (1882-1972) IF LOVE OF MINE. Letts was born in Salford and wrote many profound verses about the outbreak and consequences of the First World War, my work makes several settings of her work, juxtaposed against recollections from the frontline.
When I first read this poem I thought that it was written from the perspective of a young person who had just lost their lover to the war; then I thought but it could also be from the perspective of a mother who had just lost her young son, then I thought actually one could read it from the perspective of a very young person who has lost a heroic sibling. Lastly I thought, it could also be read as the expression of a father that has lost a son – unthinkable for me (as are all of the other expressions).
I hope that the choral setting that I am close to finishing will be fitting for these powerful words, and allow such mobility of expression for the choral singers:
IF LOVE OF MINE
If love of mine could witch you back to earth
It would be when the bat is on the wing,
The lawn dew-drenched, the first stars glimmering,
The moon a golden slip of seven nights’ birth.
If prayer of mine could bring you it would be
To this wraith-flowered jasmine-scented place
Where shadow trees their branches interlace;
Phantoms we’d tread a land of fantasy.
If love could hold you I would bid you wait
Till the pearl sky is indigo and till
The plough show silver lamps beyond the hill
And Aldebaran burns above the gate.
If love of mine could lure you back to me
From the rose gardens of eternity.