Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Splendour Falls

The Splendour Falls - composed 1943
Music by Cecil Armstrong Gibbs
Words by Alfred Lord Tennyson

The splendour falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story:
The long [light]1 shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory:
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
[Blow, bugle;]2 answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O hark, O hear how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying:
[Blow, bugle;]2 answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

Here I am at another Travelodge Motel - somewhere in Lancashire, and on the never ending, and all too familiar M6 Motorway. The M6 is the spine of my travelling body, it gets me from the furthest north to the furthest south in the shortest possible time. I suppose I ought to be grateful, but it is tough to feel anything other than mentally resigned to the well known and fairly boring 300 miles of straight road!

For the first time in ages I was listening in the car to a new CD which I recently purchased for about 2p on Amazon. It is a re-print of a Dame Janet Baker recording of English Art Song. I had the same on LP about 123 years ago, infact I think I revised for my A Levels to it and one other LP of a little known opera called La Calisto by Cavalli. I did infact pass quite well, so they can't have been too detrimental to academic progress!

Anyhow there were a couple of songs I had forotten, they had receded into the mists of my brain, and it was like suddenly being thrust back to my desk and bedroom (which was dark purple and rather 'nylonesque' I recall, and very late 1960's retro!)in a small seaside town on the North East coast of England.

Quite apart from Baker's sublime technique and totally focused tone, combined with scintillatingly crystal words, the heart she puts into these long fogotten songs such as 'The Estuary' by Michael Head, 'The Call' by Vaughan Williams and 'The Splendour Falls' by Armstrong Gibbs is so poignant, and warmingly redolent of rolling green pastures on hot summer days. The Splendour Falls is actually about a visit to the highlands of Scotland, and is both dramatic and lyrical at one and the same tme - just, infact, like the vista I see out of my kitchen window! I sang it in the Mezzo solo class at Blackpool Festival in 1970, and loved the text as well as the music. I bet the then carefree 20 year old never dreamt she would be living in that very Paradise!

And so to bed, says Andy Pandy to Teddy.

( Andy Pandy was from a toddlers TV series called Watch With Mother, when I was about 5, for the info of any reader friends too young to remember, or not from these shores!)

Blimey my nostalgia hormone has gone slightly beserk, I must need to sleep!


  1. I like nostalgia!! I am from the NE shores of the US. So anytime you want to include pictures.... LOL!!

  2. Thanks Mary, sometimes I think nostalgia is wonderful. Am I turning into my parents!

  3. Oh Ann, as a former music major who is now but a singing mommy, your blog is really inspiring me. I actually sang "The Splendour Falls" in my last semester at the University. It is so moving and so beautiful! I've tried to teach a few voice lessons lately, but I think I'd rather be taking them myself! Too bad you live 4000 miles away- I wouild try to get on your waiting list. :). Thank you for sharing- I popped over from Down-to-Earth and I will be back again.
    -Helene in the USA