The Crown of Life
The Crown of Life is a major oratorio commissioned by the Philomusica of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire for their millenium season.
It was first performed in Cheltenham Town Hall on 26th November 2000. Diana Walkley was the mezzo-soprano soloist and Neil Fortin the tenor.
The duration is around 80 minutes.
The work is based on a series of sonnets by the little-known metaphysical religious poet William Alabaster (1567-1640). These sonnets meditate on various emblems of the Crucifixion; each is prefaced by a corresponding line from the gospels which are set for children’s voices accompanied by organ. Two vocal soloists are used; each has one complete sonnet as a solo movement, and the penultimate movement is a luxurious duet (and includes a role for the children’s choir, too).
The final movement sets one of Alabaster’s sonnets about the Resurrection.
Text for the opening movement:
And my poor heart so narrow of content,
That with thy love my heart wellnigh is rent,
And yet I love to bear such loving pain.
O take thy Cross and nails and therewith strain
My heart’s desire unto his full extent,
That thy dear love may not therein be pent,
But thoughts may have free scope thy love to explain.
O now my heart more paineth than before,
Because it can receive and hath no more,
O fill this emptiness or else I die,
Now stretch my heart again and now supply,
Now I want space, now grace. To end this smart,
Since my heart holds not thee, hold thou my heart.