For Choir (SATB)
Duration: 4 minutes
Text: Tides by Christopher Churcher
Winner of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Breathing World Competition
Pour of sea. See spires
of silver, slashed to
by blue, relentless tides.
Shore of silt. Watch ravaged
plains of pebbles foam, which
now are left to freeze and groan;
under cruel, destructive tides.
Yet leagues of surf will sigh afresh,
beyond the sphere of human flesh.
The tides of time will ebb and flow;
while we are broken for all time.
– Christopher Churcher (2022)
Tides is a tribute to the sea: in its beauty, majesty and eternity. Each stanza of the poem recognises the sea in these three contrasting perspectives, encapsulating the often seemingly contradictory beliefs that humans have held over the sea throughout history: of life-giver and life-destroyer, object of beauty, and force of destruction. Yet beyond this, the poem primarily recognises the sea as a fundamentally eternal force: one which has existed and will continue to exist independently of humankind. In this sense the poem is not just about the sea, but humanity itself. A sombre reminder of our diminutiveness as a species, and that – although the actions of humanity have greatly harmed hydrological systems – there are eternal forces on this planet which will exist long after we are gone.
The music is, in part, a hymn to the sea. The four voices often move as one: simple consonant harmonies interspersed by sinuous polyphony. Whilst the central musical theme – a homophonic gesture of a rising fifth – is built into the fabric of the whole piece; new, twisting lines emerge throughout its course, until the conclusion (deliberately inconclusive in nature), as one such line settles onto a chord cluster, and is met by a warmly-voiced, prayer-like farewell in the tenors and basses.