Cançó del Mar

When I came across these Catalan texts they immediately suggested a musical setting. I had the vision of an itinerant band of musicians playing on a street corner for anyone who would care to listen – Catalan was the language of the Mediaeval troubadours after all! However, in this late 19th century text the subject is the sea rather than courtly love. The text is a compilation from two of the works of Joan Maragall: the whole poem Excèlsior and one verse from the long work Himne Ibèric. The first links images of the sea with the single-minded pursuit of a goal and the second with the struggle for freedom.

The setting is very simple, making extensive use of echo between the two choirs, a time-honoured device that helps reinforce the folk music feel of the piece. There are certainly no allusions to the music of the Middle Ages here, nor any deliberate references to authentic Catalan folk music in the relaxed, very tonal writing. The instrumental ensemble has its own circling, languorous theme, usually independent but sometimes commenting on the text. Copies of this piece include a detailed guide into the pronunciation of the text. Cançó del Mar was written in 1998 and extensively revised in 2010.





Perusal Score

Performance History

1) World Premiere; November 27, 2010; 8:00pm in All Saints Church in Howick.

2) November 28, 2010; 8:00pm in All Saints Church in Howick, both venues in Auckland NZ; both performances, the Auckland Welsh Choir, directed by Diana Rhodes.

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Cançó del Mar

Vigila, esperit, vigila,
no perdis mai el teu nord,
no et deixis dû a la tranquil·la
aigua mansa de cap port.

Gira, gira els ulls en l’aire,
no miris les platges roïns,
dóna el front an el gran aire,
sempre, sempre mar endins.

El mar és gran i es mou i brilla i canta,
dessota els vents bramant en fort combat,
és una immensa lluita ressonanta,
és un etern deler de llibertat.

Sempre amb les veles suspeses,
del cel al mar transparent,
sempre entorn aigües esteses
que es moguin eternament.

Fuig-ne, de la terra immoble,
fuig dels horitzons mesquins:
sempre al mar, al gran mar noble;
sempre, sempre mar endins.

Fora terres, fora platja,
oblida’t de tot regrés:
no s’acaba el teu viatge,
no s’acabarà mai més…

Joan Maragall (1860-1911)


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Song of the Sea

Take care, my soul, take care!
keep your eye on the compass,
don’t let yourself be carried
into the calm waters of any harbour.

Look into the distance,
not at the narrow beaches,
feel the wind on your face,
forever deep ocean.

The ocean is great and it moves and shines and sings,
under the shrieking winds it struggles with all its might,
it is a huge, noisy fight,
it is the eternal longing for freedom

Sails forever hanging
from sky to to crystal sea,
currents forever spreading,
eternally moving.

Get away from firm ground,
get away from confined horizons,
always to the great, powerful ocean,
forever deep ocean.

The land, the shore disappear,
forget any thought of return,
your voyage is not complete,
and never will be…