Planet Hugill: Seeking everlasting life: creating my cantata Et expecto resurrectionem


Walt Whitman, age 35, from the frontispiece to Leaves of Grass, July 1854
Walt Whitman, age 35, July 1854
from the frontispiece to Leaves of Grass 

Robert Hugill: Et expecto resurrectionem, cantata for tenor, baritone and piano, shall be premiered by Ben Vonberg-Clark (tenor), James Atkinson (baritone) and Nigel Foster (piano) on the live performance Out of the Shadows at Hinde Avenue Methodist Church on Friday 3 February 2023 [further details]. 

My cantata Et expecto resurrectionem seems to be at concepts of resurrection and everlasting life, beginning with the Latin creed and transferring via cryogenics, physique snatchers, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, ending with a passage from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. The work had fairly a fancy genesis, having began out virtually as a special work totally and alongside the best way it spawned my brief opera The Genesis of Frankenstein

One Sunday in 2015, I used to be sitting within the choir at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Chelsea throughout Latin mass, ready for the choir’s subsequent piece and relatively wool-gathering. At such moments I relatively get concepts for music and having simply sung the Latin Creed I used to be mulling over the thought of making a piece exploring life after dying, increasing on the phrase ‘Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum’.

The issue was, the extra I believed concerning the concept later, the extra bother I had discovering texts that I wished to set. My unique concept had been merely a non secular work exploring what resurrection meant. However having espresso with a singer good friend, to whom I discussed my difficulties, she responded with the thought of increasing what resurrection would possibly imply.

So, I proceeded to discover topics reminiscent of Cryogenics, the early Nineteenth-century Edinburgh physique snatchers Burke and Hare, and even Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, making the cantata much less concerning the non secular concept of resurrection and extra about man’s determined seek for life after dying.

The consequence was an eclectic set of texts which moved from Wikipedia on Cryogenics to a pair of broadsheet ballads about Burke and Hare, to my very own extremely digested model of Frankenstein, all interspersed with phrases from the Creed. To this point, so good. I set to, writing for 3 soloists, soprano, tenor and bass, with instrumental ensemble. I accomplished the piece however remained dissatisfied. The stability didn’t appear to be fairly proper, and the Frankenstein part gave the impression to be far stronger than the remainder of the work. I did what I at all times do when dissatisfied with a chunk, I put it to at least one aspect so I may come again later and re-think.

I found that Ella Marchment‘s
Helios Ensemble, music director Noah Mosley, was in search of proposals
for brief operatic works to go on a programme to be introduced round
Hallowe’en. And thus, The Genesis of Frankenstein was born, my enlargement of the Frankenstein part
of my resurrection piece, tailored for soprano, tenor, baritone, violin,
viola, cello, piano and clarinet. It was staged in October 2015 at
Helios Collective’s Toi Toi 2015, and that gave the impression to be that.

Robert Hugill The Genesis of Frankenstein The Helios Collective with Mimi Jaeger, Anuschka Socher, Isolde Roxby, Noah Mosley at CLF Arts Cafe as part of Toi Toi 2015
Robert Hugill The Genesis of Frankenstein
The Helios Collective with Mimi Jaeger, Anuschka Socher, Isolde Roxby, Noah Mosley
at CLF Arts Cafe as a part of Toi Toi 2015

Throughout lockdown in 2020, I began searching previous tasks, finishing and revising them. I returned to the texts for the work I used to be calling Et expecto resurrectionem and determined to have one other go, beginning once more by setting the texts from scratch. The very first thing I realised was the Frankenstein part wasn’t a passable ending for the work, so I solid round for a closing textual content.

Throughout 2019, I had interviewed composer Ian Venables [see my interview]; technically the interview was presupposed to be about his Requiem, however we ended up chatting extensively about tune writing and the topic of Walt Whitman got here up. I had confessed that I discovered Whitman difficult to set, and Ian had mentioned that he had too, however just lately had returned to the poet and located him rewarding.

Thus, I went taking a look at Whitman, and remembered Holst’s Ode to Dying, which I sang as a pupil in Manchester, and which was performed on the BBC Proms in 2018. I discovered that the textual content from the Leaves of Grass fitted my necessities, a type of transcendental meditation on dying, the afterlife and music.

I set to, and wrote a brand new cantata for tenor, baritone and piano, although one or two fragments of the unique materials discovered their means into the brand new piece. The piece developed organically. Moderately than particular person solos for the 2 singers, the vocal traces weave round one another, generally the one finishing the opposite’s phrases. And because the piece progressed, I realised that the actions flowed into one another, forming a single steady complete and I had nice enjoyable writing appropriate linking passages so the transitions labored.

The consequence has a dramaturgical circulate to it, and I fancy that it’d even be staged. We start with a agency assertion of the creed, after which transfer onto cryogenics, adopted by extracts of the Burke and Hare ballads after which Frankenstein. Between these, materials from the unique creed part returns, however the ending of Frankenstein merges into the start of the Whitman setting, virtually as if our daring explorers flee their monster and discover themselves in Whitman’s transcendent panorama. 

Et expecto resurrectionem shall be premiered on 3 February 2023 at Hinde Avenue Methodist Church by Ben Vonberg-Clark (tenor), James Atkinson (baritone), Nigel Foster (piano) in a programme that features the premiere of my cantata Out of the shadows together with one thing of a retrospective of previous works together with settings of phrases by Lord Alfred Douglas, M.V. Full of life (from How will you write a poem when you find yourself dying of AIDS), J.A.Symonds translations of Michelangelo’s sonnets and the up to date American poet Carl Prepare dinner. [further details]

Out of the Shadows - Robert Hugil

1 Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum
Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum

        [Graduale Romanum]

2 Cryogenics

A central premise of cryonics is that long-term reminiscence, persona and id are saved in sturdy cell constructions inside the mind that don’t require steady mind exercise to outlive. In sure circumstances the mind can cease functioning and nonetheless later get better with retention of long-term reminiscence. Mind constructions encoding, persona, long-term reminiscence persist for a while after scientific dying preserved by cryopreservation. Future applied sciences may restore encoded reminiscences to useful expression

Theoretic’ly doable

Morally accountable.

Morally accountable?

[adapted by the composer from Wikipedia entry on Cryogenics]

3 – Burke & Hare

Up the shut and down the stair,

In the home with Burke and Hare.

Burke’s the butcher, Hare’s the thief

Knox, the person who buys the meat.

When first I started this wild profession,
‘Twas with the previous pensioner,
Who died a pure dying final 12 months,

However didn’t get hold of a sepulchre.

The physique we dropped at Surgeons Sq.

Quickly obtained a prepared marketplace for’t,

And encourag’d thus to convey some extra,

The remainder quickly adopted after it.

4 had been chok’d in Broggan’s home,

Although Broggan didn’t know,

And 4 had been homicide’d in my home,

Which induced my overthrow.

My sentence, due to this fact, should be simply,

For God’s commandment says,

He that sheddeth one other’s blood,

His blood should it appease.


4 – Et vitam venturi

Et vitam venturi saeculi

[Graduale Romanum]

5 – On a dreary evening of November

On a dreary evening of November

I beheld the accomplishment of my toils.

With nervousness that just about amounted to agony,

I collected the devices of life round me,

that I would infuse a spark of being into the lifeless factor that lay at my toes.

It was already one within the morning;

when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished gentle,

I noticed the boring yellow eye of the creature open;

it breathed onerous,

a convulsive movement agitated its limbs.

I beheld the wretch

the depressing monster whom I had created.

His eyes, if eyes they could be referred to as, had been fastened on me.

His jaws opened, he muttered inarticulate sounds,

one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me,

however I escaped

[adapted by the composer from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein]

6 – Come beautiful and soothing dying.

Then with the data of dying as strolling one aspect of me,

And the considered dying close-walking the opposite aspect of me,

And I within the center as with companions, and as holding the palms of companions,

I fled forth to the hiding receiving evening that talks not,

Right down to the shores of the water, the trail by the swamp within the dimness,

To the solemn shadowy cedars and ghostly pines so nonetheless.

And the singer so shy to the remaining receiv’d me,

The grey-brown fowl I do know receiv’d us comrades three,

And he sang the carol of dying, and a verse for him I like.

From deep secluded recesses,

From the aromatic cedars and the ghostly pines so nonetheless,

Got here the carol of the fowl.

And the appeal of the carol rapt me,

As I held as if by their palms my comrades within the evening,

And the voice of my spirit tallied the tune of the fowl.

Come beautiful and soothing dying,

Undulate around the world, serenely arriving, arriving,

Within the day, within the evening, to all, to every,

In the end delicate dying.

Prais’d be the fathomless universe,

For all times and pleasure, and for objects and data curious,

And for love, candy love—however reward! reward! reward!

For the sure-enwinding arms of cool-enfolding dying.

Darkish mom at all times gliding close to with mushy toes,

Have none chanted for thee a chant of fullest welcome?

Then I chant it for thee, I glorify thee above all,

I convey thee a tune that when thou should certainly come, come unfalteringly.

[Walt Whitman from Leaves of Grass Book XXII]


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