Some poems by Emily Dickinson I love; others I find dangerously close to twee. I’ve never thought of setting them to music before, and this is probably because of Copland’s wonderful song settings; I suppose I was afraid it would be impossible to put them out of my mind and find a fresh approach. However, last year I came across a poem I’d not seen before, and was bewitched by it. This was at the memorial service for a wonderful friend called Jo Campling – it had been a favourite poem of hers, and was read at the service. It begins
Exultation is the going / Of an inland soul to sea – / Past the houses, past the headlands, / Into deep Eternity.
Shortly after this I was given the opportunity to write a new piece for the BBC Singers. I knew immediately that I wanted to set this visionary poem about courage in the face of the unknown, and death. I wrote the first couple of minutes’ music in December, and then had to leave it for other more urgent deadlines, but was able to go back and finish the piece last month. The BBC Singers will give the premiere in St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, in a concert of new music conducted by James Morgan. I’m really looking forward to working with this fantastic group and hearing the music for the first time.