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Randle, Rhiannon: On Life’s Dividing Sea

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SATB unaccompanied (with divisions)

Greatly admiring the poetry of Christina Rossetti, and in particular the elegance and poignancy of her sonnet ‘An Echo from Willow-Wood’, the composer initially wrote this work as the second of a group of three anthems entitled Echoes from Willow Wood, exploring aspects of hope and despair in love. These are indeed powerful themes throughout Rossetti’s oeuvre, and there was a strong creative tension here with another text selected for the collection, her much anthologised ‘A Birthday’, which is brimming with hope and joy at the prospect of love. By contrast, in On Life’s Dividing Sea the poet tugs vainly at the heart-strings of hope and concludes in dejection. Taking its title from line 8 of the poem, the setting focuses on imagery of the sea, an emblem which inspired many of the textures of the central section. Cluster chords, more lyrical gestures, and suggestions of quasi-Purcellian cadences convey a message of youthful, innocent desire being torn apart, while maintaining Rossetti’s poised Victorian turn of phrase.

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