Première of “At Home”

As their first ever composer-in-residence, the Ottawa women’s choir Aella asked me to compose a new work for them this year. The poem chosen was “At Home” by Christina Rossetti, which they performed for the first time on June 16. Take a listen for yourself, from their concert Light Persists:

Aella, led by Jennifer Berntson in Ottawa

When I was dead, my spirit turned
To seek the much-frequented house:
I passed the door, and saw my friends
Feasting beneath green orange boughs; 
From hand to hand they pushed the wine, 
They sucked the pulp of plum and peach; 
They sang, they jested, and they laughed,
For each was loved of each.

I listened to thier honest chat:
Said one: “To-morrow we shall be
Plod plod along the featureless sands, 
And coasting miles and miles of sea.” 
Said one: “Before the turn of tide
We will achieve the eyrie-seat.” 
Said one: “To-morrow shall be like
To-day, but much more sweet.”

“To-morrow,” said they, strong with hope, 
And dwelt upon the pleasant way: 
“To-morrow,” cried they, one and all, 
While no one spoke of yesterday.
Their life stood full at blessed noon; 
I, only I, had passed away: 
“To-morrow and to-day,” they cried;
I was of yesterday.

I shivered comfortless, but cast
No chill across the table-cloth; 
I, all-forgotten, shivered, sad
To stay, and yet to part how loth: 
I passed from the familiar room, 
I who from love had passed away,
Like the remembrance of a guest
That tarrieth but a day.