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Echo (2022)


For choir (SSAATTBB)


Composed for VOCES8. First performance by VOCES8 Scholars at St. Bride's Church, October 13, 2022. 

Winner of the JAM President's Commission

Text: Echo by Christina Rosetti

Duration: 7 minutes

Christina Rosetti’s Echo is a poem of deeply painful desire and longing, the title relating to the Greek myth of Narcissus and Echo: Narcissus gazed and fell in love with his reflection in a pond; whilst Echo loved and yearned for him, before being finally rejected. Rosetti’s poem describes the profound longing to reach a loved one again after they have died. The persona’s exhortation for their lost loved one to come with ‘soft, rounded cheeks,’ indicates that the object of the poem may be a dead child, however the text is a universal call to anyone who has lost an individual they cherished deeply and long simply to experience again.


As a piece of lyric poetry, I set each stanza as an individual verse; each constructed with sensitivity to the clear tonal shifts throughout the poem. The first stanza refers to the longing for an individual’s physicality; their cheeks, tears and eyes, the second a glimpse into the eternal, celestial Paradise in which all souls will one day be reunited; whilst the third is the most personal and intimate of the three, the persona emerging as an independent voice, longing for the pulse, breath, and tactility of the individual for whom they yearn.

Accordingly, the first verse sees the music at its most unified and homophonic, whilst the second verse conveys glimpses of heaven, with soaring, intertwined descant lines; before the intimate third verse allows the individual voice of the persona to speak sincerely through the solo voices of the two sopranos and first alto, accompanied by hushed mourning in the lower voices.

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