Music hath charms....... continued

Dr. Brian Tyson and I have collaborated on several projects, most still-born, but this next composition was my way of expressing my gratitude to him for sincere friendship, and intellectual comradeship over the years of my tenure at the University of Lethbridge. Brian is still living in Lethbridge with his wife, Jill. We remain in touch via the Internet and the telephone. I am still coaxing him to move to the coast, thus far unsuccessfully. The sea is calling.......

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Bromptons, an English Rhapsody © 1983

"Bromptons" is based on an unfinished pastoral romance by University of Lethbridge Professor Emeritus, Brian Tyson. This piece is another time, another place, another world from the previous work. The setting is Bromptons, a large country estate home in rural England. The poem is a bittersweet memory of one man's youth in and around this tranquil haunt, and is autobiographical in nature. In the poem, Tyson captures the fond recollections of beauty and nature, but also hints at the inevitability of the loss of innocence, and of mortality that each of us face. I have consciously chosen to adopt an English impressionist style with a few expanded tonal features in an effort to set time and place. The piece is scored for baritone voice, oboe, clarinet, french horn, and string quintet. Originally conceived as a chamber work, it has also been performed with a full orchestral string component which was a featured work at a concert of the Southern Alberta Chamber Orchestra. The chamber version received performances at a number of different venues in Lethbridge and Calgary. It will be noted that I have taken a few liberties with the text, including a decision to "end" the work two stanzas ahead of the last written lines.

The work was composed for noted Baritone, Dr. George Evelyn, accompanied by Musaeus including: Stewart Grant, oboe; Margaret Mezei, clarinet; Peter Sametz*, horn; Norbert Boehm, violin; Peter Jarvis, violin; Katherine Headrick, viola; Joanne Grant, cello; and Dean Blair, double bass. The “preview” premiere performance was at the University of Lethbridge Oct. 2 1984, the Official premiere to follow: including a CBC recording and an evening concert at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery as a part of the Lethbridge Symphony Association “du Maurier” Series - Oct. 12, 1984 . The old tapes have been professionally re-mastered by Steve Turnidge at Ars Divina (see link on the Postlude page). The work went on to enjoy a number of other performances in the Province, and a String Orchestra version presented by the Lethbridge Symphony Association with L. Atherton, guest conductor - Jan. 31, 1990, and a condensed score version prepared by David Mikuliak for his graduation recital, March 1, 1991. David also prepared an exhaustive analysis of the work which is now in the CMC archives.

*Thanks to Peter, LSO Manager and principal horn at the time, for correcting the performance listing.

Today I lay
And watched windshaken shadows dance and pass
Over the smooth and blossom-scattered grass;
The April apple-tree bedappled dark
With restless patterns on her ash-grey bark
Held out her fingers, heavy with pink flowers
To where the white clouds marked the drifting hours:
A gust of wind made olive shadows fade,
And suddenly the golden lawn was greyed
To a dull uniformity; the tree
Quivered with cold, and dropped a flower to me.

A gentle breeze tossed the white lilac higher
Breathed on the rose in its unwinding fire,
Coaxed the small flames of Spring, and softly blew
Their glow until they shed bright sparks of dew.
A butterfly woke from her bright blue bed:
Her faded gown was veined with deeper red;
The warming sun fell on her tawny dust
An instant, then, snatched by a sudden gust
Of Nature's fancy, off she planed between
The trees: an Autumn leaf among the green
Groves of Summer.

Slowly I began
To think upon the ageless, natural plan
which yearly brought me beauty, pain and joy;
The restless peace of growing as a boy
When grass was sweeter, and the sun did burn
More brightly. Fourteen Summers in their turn
Did I in wonder watch this plan unfold:
Watched as the wasp hovered in honeygold
Before a glowing cave of peonies
Singing aloud for wine; brown velvet bees
Muttering on their way with solemn frown,
Stealing a pearl from every flower's crown;
The tumbling butterfly, constrained to dance
Like an enchanted petal; saw her glance
At idle blooms, those many years ago,
Those many miles away.

To Colnengaine
Wander my mind a sunsplashed dusty lane
Fragrant with soft blue shadow, to the ridge
Of a green valley, where a greystone bridge
Spans a bright bubbling silver-sanded stream.
Over its sleeping sedges small gnats dream,
Poor prey of the sequinned dragonfly.
See! Under a fence of water-spears there lie
Six tiny sailors on an anchored ark:
Brood of the blood-billed moorhen; sooty dark,
She breasts the shallows where the small fish feed,
Her emerald feet beneath like trailing weed.

Some years ago, a boy that once l knew
Watched a kingfisher plunge his living blue
Into this pebbling crystal: he appeared
For an eternal second, dropped and speared
His minnow breakfast with a sudden splash,
Dyed the clear water with a sapphire flash,
And, like a jewelled arrow, shot away
For ever. Though the boy for many a day
Watched through the cuckoo-months, he never saw
His kingfisher again.

But take his hand,
And he will lead you through the pleasant land
Where Beauty walks the fields in May with singing
And nesting sets the pinetop steeples ringing
Along the flintwalk by the river; down
Where thirsty watermeadows lap the brown
And silent water. Standing in this bower
Thick with rich burdock and the nettteflower,
Browsing beside the blossomed hawthorn hedge,
In the deep shade, cropping the meadow's edge
Stand Golden Sovereign, Lady Grey and Nettles,

All fetlock-deep in pennyroyal petals:
Friends of my youth, who cropped the luscious root
In rhythm to the cuckoo's hollow flute;
The while above them woodpeckers, their nails
Dug in the ashtrees, sitting on their tails,
Rattled the timber with a clattering bill;
Who followed music up the dewdamp hill:
The plaintive heather-bleating of the snipe
High in the blue, and yellowhammer's pipe
Thin from the singing furze...


---------Brian Tyson, 1953 ©