- SATB soloists or choir
- c. 7 mins
- First performance
- 12 December 2009, Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, York, UK.
When approaching this setting of Christina Rossetti’s famous sonnet, there were two concepts that I wanted to explore. Firstly, to set out a musical fragment (the opening soprano melody) from which the entire piece could be built. Secondly, to ensure that there was a clear point of both musical and textual apotheosis, which would provide an emotional ‘point of no return’. It seems that there is a clear change in direction in the text between lines 10 and 11 and I chose this as the point around which the piece would revolve, with a turn towards the major mode and the use of an wordless inversion of the opening four note motif to accompany ‘A vestige of the thoughts that once I had’, providing a musical metaphor for the sense of a gradually fading memory.
Once that decision had been taken, the compositional process was enacted as something of a pincer movement – working forward from the opening material and backward from this point of change to hopefully provide a coherent sense of movement from one position to another. Within this strategy I felt it was also important to recognise the sonnet form of the poem. Thus the two four-line sections of the opening octave, both beginning ‘Remember me’, are set using similar material. Furthermore, there is a clear division at ‘Yet if you should forget’, which is built on the octotonic material from ‘Gone far away’ in the opening melody. This unsettling figure, emerging from low in the basses, gradually overwhelms the ‘Remember me’ motif until a full chorus outcry of ‘forget me for a while’. The sense of everything imploding is reinforced by the complete breakdown of the material, with sopranos and altos almost chanting ‘Forget me’ and ‘Remember me’ at an interval of a major second – the juxtaposition making explicit what I feel is the implicit ambiguity of the text.