Crossing the Bar (Jonathan Reid) Carl Fischer (CM9726, published 2022) Submitted by Jeffrey S. Gemmell ACDA-PA Lower Voices R&R Chair
In search of a powerful and poignant piece to develop your ensemble's choral artistry and add a soul-stirring moment to your next concert? Consider Jonathan Reid's Crossing the Bar, available from Carl Fischer, LLC (Michael John Trotta's Signature Series): https://www.carlfischer.com/cm9726-crossing-the-bar.html
Sunset and evening star, and one clear call for me! And may there be no moaning of the bar when I put out to sea.
Crossing the Bar is a familiar poem by English Romantic poet Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892). Though written three years before his death, he considered it a valedictory and requested that it appear as the final work in his published oeuvre. The first musical setting of the poem, a song for high voice by Charles Villers Stanford (1852-1924), was composed in 1890. This was followed in 1893 by a four-part hymn, Freshwater, by Sir Hubert Parry (1848-1918). Hundreds of other versions have since been published, including those by historic figures like Geoffrey Shaw, Charles Ives, John Philip Sousa, and many others. Effective contemporary works for lower voice ensembles have been written by Gwyneth Walker, David Conte, Daniel Hall, John Helgen, Rani Arbo, and Matthew and Shelly Armstrong.
Dallas-based composer, music educator, and pianist Jonathan Reid (b. 1991) has courageously added yet another musical setting of this poem so admired by composers for over 130 years, and his work does not disappoint! Winner of the 2019 Gregg Smith Composition Contest, Reid's work is beautifully crafted and significant as a means for younger singers to access the depth and meaning of these powerful words. More advanced ensembles will enjoy it as well.
Jonathan Reid studied with Dan Forrest (b. 1978) and composes with a similar lyricism and warmth. The music reflects the images created by Tennyson to convey a steady and peaceful final voyage across the sea to "meet my Pilot face to face when I have crossed the bar." The ethereal piano accompaniment is supportive yet unobtrusive, the overall harmonic structure (C major--a minor--A major--F# major) provides a colorful and emotional journey. Vocal ranges (T: e3-g4; B1 & B2: d3-d4) are comfortable and the part-writing is often homorhythmic, with unison lines unfolding into close and satisfying three-part harmony. Sonic variety is created by changing textures: a lovely middle section features Basses on the melody, accompanied by Baritones and Tenors on [u]; later, a brief a cappella TTBB passage (three measures) serves to strengthen the marriage of music and words; and an optional TBB solo phrase on the final page adds individual voices to the choral context.
The greatest technical challenge of the piece, and hence a most rewarding outcome, is the commitment necessary to develop the ensemble's vocal technique. The quality of the poetry inspires singable parts: the right vowels are in the right places to facilitate ease of choral tuning; comfortable tessituras encourage a natural balance of timbres and techniques (light mix to fully engaged); sustained vocal lines, lengthy phrases, and a wide range of dynamics require appropriate breath control; and sensitive part-writing calls for singers to perform with feelingfulness, honesty, and directness in order to communicate their expressive message.
Reid's Crossing the Bar is a refreshing blend of old and new, where a timelessly universal poem is set to fresh and inspirational music to help us deal with the journey of life.
ACDA-PA: American Choral Directors Association of Pennsylvania Independent voices joining to form a common theme.