ob - SATB chorus
This is the first time that I’ve been asked to write music in response to another composer’s work, and it has turned out to be both a fruitful and enjoyable experience. When I first read the text, I had an instinctive reaction to the phrase, “more geese than swans now live, more fools than wise”. For me it summed up our present political climate, both nationally and internationally, and the anxiety, anger and distress that many of us feel about the times we are living in. And then as I wrote, something shifted. I think it started with the realisation that we have always lived in troubled times and that the foolish geese, sadly, have always existed and will remain with us.
My Aunty Sue died during the pandemic. She was wonderful, and her house was always filled with warmth and laughter. Sue didn’t change the world, she wasn’t famous, a pioneer or a ‘great’ person in any historical context. But none of that matters, because she was so very loved, and we loved her, and in that way she changed our worlds. In this fast-paced and performative society I think it’s easy to forget that there is a wonder and profundity to be found in lives that are simply lived well; an extraordinariness in our ordinariness.
Musically, I’ve taken key phrases from Gibbons’ little gem and incorporated them into the new piece. In this way the music is recontextualised and a new meaning and perspective is discovered. I kept the original text but have played around with it; switching it up and highlighting and repeating certain phrases. The only phrase that I altered was to add, ‘Silver swan, sing out your song.’ It’s a rally to the swans and a message in a bottle that I hope will travel into the future when subsequent choirs sing Close Mine Eyes.
I am still angry with the people in charge who lie and grab what isn’t theirs to take; those who put personal gain over civic responsibility and decency. But my response to them is to be kind, to foster community and to celebrate being alive whilst surrounding myself with people whom I love and who love me. It is a defiant and triumphant act to remain optimistic in dark times, and hope will be my battle cry. So, I dedicate Close Mine Eyes to Susan Boss, a true swan, and to all the other swans who will never make the history books, but whose plumage shines quietly but gloriously bright nonetheless.
© Jessica Curry