I decided to end my week in St. John’s by attending a performance of the Quintessential Vocal Ensemble, an award-winning a cappella choir, at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist which dominates the St. John’s skyline right beside The Rooms.
One piece by this choral group I found to be wonderfully atmospheric and moving: Nocturne, music by Leonard Enns, text by William Shakespeare (from Merchant of Venice, Act 5). The rising swells of voices reminded me of the sea. I did some research and I found that this piece at been commissioned by the Guelph Spring Festival:
Nocturne was commissioned by the Guelph Spring Festival through the support of the Ontario Arts Council. Nocturne is mainly gentle throughout, expanding to a twenty-part ‘night sky’ section near the end, before the final regretful acknowledgment that while we are clothed in our mortal ‘vesture of decay’ we cannot hear the true harmony of the ideal world.
I tried to recreate, in the music, a moment of engaged, energized, near-magical reality – the closest picture I have of this is stars playing hide and seek with the curtains of northern lights on a prairie winter night (not what the bard had in mind, I expect!). In the end of course, this is to be a metaphor and not simply an aural picture – here’s a place to which we can go; how do we get there?(from Canadian Music Centre)
The original text from The Merchant of Venice:
How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
The Basilica of St. John The Baptist (with The Rooms just visible to the side). I took this picture as the sun was readying to set behind the basilica.
THE END OF MY TRIP TO ST. JOHN’S, NEWFOUNDLAND (May 21-28, 2007)