Sydney Chamber Choir announces this week’s digital release, Ah! Sun-flower from Jonathan Dove’s The Passing of the Year, a 7-part song cycle written for double choir and piano.
It’s a return to the 21st century with this excerpt which is the 5th movement of the song cycle.
Jonathan Dove’s music is about communicating, creating wonder and enriching lives, qualities that are abundant in this choral song cycle. It’s an ambiguous title – is this a celebration of the seasons, à la Vivaldi, or a lament for another year gone? – and that ambiguity contributes to the music’s extraordinary intensity and beauty.
Ah! Sun-flower, expresses the yearning of a weary soul from the restful sleep of death. The words of William Blake take us inside the pain of the sunflower, condemned to follow the sun’s beauty as it rises and sets each day, but never permitted to reach the truer, lasting beauty of eternity. Dove’s music here conveys both movement and stillness. The piano gives us two chords which rock gently back and forth throughout the entire movement while the rhythm continues to move us forwards. In the voices, Dove uses canonic writing – the same tune sung by all eight parts, overlapping as each begins one after the other – to convey the endless round of the sunflower’s daily journey.
Adapted from annotations by Natalie Shea, 2019.