(8 Shakespeare sonnets)
soprano, tenor, speaking voice, bass clarinet/ clarinet; electric/ acoustic guitar; percussion (vibes, cimbalom, untuned percussion), piano, 2 violas, cello, double bass
Duration 61’
First performance The Courtyard Theatre Stratford on Avon, February 24
Anna Maria Friman, John Potter, Gavin Friday
Opera North Ensemble, dir. James Holmes

Note : Structure of Nothing like the Sun

Structure of Nothing like the Sun

I A Sonnet 60 (spoken)

I B Sonnet 60 (soprano and tenor)

II A Sonnet 123 (spoken)

II B Sonnet 123 (tenor solo)

III A Sonnet 128 (spoken)

III B Sonnet 128 (soprano solo) followed by postlude

IV A Sonnet 94 (spoken)

IV B Sonnet 94 (soprano and tenor)

V A Sonnet 102 (spoken)

V B Sonnet 102 (soprano solo)

VI A Sonnet 146 (spoken)

VI B Sonnet 146 (soprano and tenor) followed by postlude

VII A Sonnet 55 (spoken)

VII B Sonnet 55 (tenor solo)

VIII A Sonnet 64 (spoken)

VIII B Sonnet 64 (soprano and tenor) followed by epilogue

Note : Text of Nothing like the Sun

Text of Nothing like the Sun

Sonnet 60

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

So do our minutes hasten to their end;

Each changing place with that which goes before,

In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

Nativity, once in the main of light,

Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd,

Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight,

And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.

Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth

And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,

Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,

And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:

And yet to times in hope, my verse shall stand

Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand. 


Sonnet 123

No! Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change

Thy pyramids built up with newer might

To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;

They are but dressings of a former sight.

Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire

What thou dost foist upon us that is old,

And rather make them born to our desire

Than think that we before have heard them told.

Thy registers and thee I both defy,

Not wond'ring at the present or the past;

For thy records and thee and what we see doth lie,

Made more or less by thy continual haste.

This I do vow and this shall ever be:

I will be true, despite thy scythe and thee.


Sonnet 128


How oft when thou, my music, music play'st,

Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds

With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway'st

The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,

Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap,

To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,

Whilst my poor lips which should that harvest reap,

At the wood's boldness by thee blushing stand!

To be so tickled, they would change their state

And situation with those dancing chips,

O'er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,

Making dead wood more bless'd than living lips.

Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,

Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.


Sonnet 94

They that have pow'r to hurt, and will do none,

That do not do the thing they most do show,

Who moving others are themselves as stone,

Unmoved, cold, and to temptations slow,

They rightly do inherit heaven's graces

And husband nature's riches from expense.

They are the lords and owners of their faces;

Others but stewards of their excellence.

The summer flow'r is to the summer sweet,

Though to itself it only live and die.

But if that flow'r with base infection meet,

The basest weed outbraves his dignity.

For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;

Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.


Sonnet 102

My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming;

I love not less, though less the show appear.

That love is merchandised whose rich esteeming

The owner's tongue doth publish everywhere.

Our love was new, and then but in the spring,

When I was wont to greet it with my lays,

As Philomel in summer's front doth sing,

And stops his pipe in growth of riper days.

Not that the summer is less pleasant now

Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,

But that wild music burthens every bough,

And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.

Therefore, like her, I sometime hold my tongue,

Because I would not dull you with my song.


Sonnet 146

Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,

These rebel powers that thee array,

Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,

Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?

Why so large cost, having so short a lease,

Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?

Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,

Eat up thy charge? Is this thy body's end?

Then soul, live thou upon thy servant's loss,

And let that pine to aggravate thy store;

Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;

Within be fed, without be rich no more:

So shall thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,

And Death once dead, there's no more dying then.

Sonnet 55

Not marble nor the gilded monuments

Of princes shall outlive this pow'rful rhyme,

But you shall shine more bright in these contents

Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.

When wasteful war shall statues overturn,

And broils root out the work of masonry,

Nor Mars his sword, nor war's quick fire, shall burn

The living record of your memory.

'Gainst death and all oblivious enmity

Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room

Even in the eyes of all posterrity

That wear this world out to the ending doom.

So till the judgment that yourself arise,

You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.


Sonnet 64

When I have seen by Time's fell hand defac'd

The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;

When sometime lofty towers I see down-raz'd,

And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;

When I have seen the hungry ocean gain

Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,

And the firm soil win of the watery main,

Increasing store with loss, and loss with store;

When I have seen such interchange of state,

Or state itself confounded to decay;

Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate

That Time will come and take my love away.

This thought is as a death which cannot choose

But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

theatre work for Von Krahl Theatre, Tallinn
Duration 60’
Directed by Peeter Jalakas
soprano voice, horn, bass clarinet, kantele, percussion, 2 violins, viola, cello bass
Soprano Kady Plaas, NYYD Ensemble directed by Olari Elts
First performance Tallinn April 9th 2007

Dance by Edouard Lock, after Tchaikovsky
Duration 80’
2 violas, cello, piano
First performance Ottawa April 20th 2007

Tenor and bass recorders
Duration 5’
First performance Peter Bowman and Kathryn Bennetts
May 2007

For string quartet, double bass, piano, percussion
First performance Mr McFall's Chamber, East Neuk Festival June 2007

Note : The Church closest to the Sea (2007)

The Church closest to the Sea (2007)

For string quartet, double bass, piano, percussion

Although ostensibly for a quite conventional instrumentation, the piece reflects something of the unusual character of the ensemble that commissioned it  - Mr McFall's Chamber - and its eclectic approach to repertoire. It features the solo pizzicato double bass, employing the subtly free rhythmic approach of the jazz ballad, with cameo solo parts for the other string instruments. The impetus to write the piece came from a chance meeting with bassist Rick Standley on a flight from Valencia in 2002, which alerted me to the group's ethos. As bassists we found that we had a great deal in common, although we have diametrically opposed views on the electric bass - an instrument which he plays beautifully, but which I loathe.

The title of the work relates to the ensemble's Scottish origins, and to the location of the work's premiere in the East Neuk (the ancient name for Fife). Many years ago I attended a friend's wedding, conducted in English and Scots, in the very lovely 750-year-old St Monans Church, a church built on the rocks by the Firth of Forth, and being the church closest to the sea in Scotland.

It is dedicated to Mr McFall's Chamber

Gavin Bryars, June 2007


Version for 13 solo basses
First performance Gary Karr and members of the Karr Kamp
Conductor Gavin Bryars
Basses Loaded, Philip T Young Hall, University of Victoria
July 2007

Note : The Porazzi Fragment (1999)

The Porazzi Fragment (1999)

for 21 solo strings

Commissioned by the Primavera Orchestra, and designed for the orchestra's string formation (11 violins, 4 violas, 4 celli and 2 basses), this piece for strings alone originates in an enigmatic, and unpublished, 13 bar musical theme by Wagner which appears to have been started during the period  when he was composing the second act of Tristan und Isolde, but only finished shortly after the completion of Parsifal in Palermo. At this time Wagner was staying in the palace of Prince Gangi - in the Piazza dei Porazzi - in order to escape the noise outside his hotel the Grand Hotel des Palmes - the same hotel in which Raymond Roussel committed suicide in 1933.

The first 8 bars, of which the eighth was crossed out, date from 1858-9. Yet it was only on March 2nd 1882, in Palermo, that Cosima witnessed his completion of the melody. The crossing out of bar eight and the remaining bars are all written in the same violet ink which he used for the full score of Parsifal. It is also almost certain that this was the music that he was reported to have been playing on the piano the night before he died in February 1883 at the Palazzo Vendramin Calergi in Venice, now the municipal casino and which, as Cosima's diary notes, represents his "last musical thoughts".

The original Wagner music emerges eventually towards the end of the piece - rather in the manner in which the funeral march from Beethoven's 'Eroica' Symphony emerges at the end of Richard Strauss' Metamorphosen (also for solo strings)

Dedicated to my wife, Anya

Gavin Bryars

3 sopranos, tenor
First performance: Trio Mediaeval and John Potter

Note : Text of Lauda 34 "Faciamo laude a tutt'i sancti"

Text of Lauda 34 "Faciamo laude a tutt'i sancti"

There are a couple of words here that I have copied correctly but wonder whether the edition has an error.

e.g "maggiure" line 1 et al
"excelença" (with one l) line 5
"gram" (line 10)

Faciamo laude a tutt'i sancti colla vergene maggiure,
Let us sing praise to all the saints and the noble Virgin,

de buon core, cum dolçe canti, per amor del creatore.
with a good heart, with sweet songs, through the love of the Creator.


Per amor del creatore cum timor e reverença,                      
Through the love of the Creator, with fear and reverence,

exultando cum baldore per divina providença                       
exulting with merriment through divine providence

tutt'i sancti per amore, intendiam cum excelença                  
all the saints through love, we intend to make merry

de far festa a lor piagença cum grandissimo fervore.             
for their pleasure, with excellence and the greatest fervour.


Faciamo laude a tutt'i sancti colla vergene maggiure,            
Let us sing praise to all the saints, with the noble Virgin,

de buon core, cum dolçe canti, per amor del creatore.          
with a good heart, with sweet songs, through the love of the Creator.


Re, filiol, de grande imperio, ke regete tutto'l mondo           
O King, Son of the mighty ruler, you who rule the whole world,

per virtù del gram misterio de lo spirito iocundo,                 
through the grace of the great mystery of the jovial spirit,

a voi sì faciam preghero ke mandiate pace al mondo           
we make our prayer to you so that you will send peace to the world

entr'a la gente cristiana ke non viva in tanto errore.            
among the Christian people who do not live in too much sin.


Faciamo laude a tutt'i sancti colla vergene maggiure,           
Let us sing praise to all the saints, with the noble Virgin,

de buon core, cum dolçe canti, per amor del creatore.         
with a good heart, with sweet songs, through the love of the Creator.


Tutta gente dican ave a la vergen madre de' sancti,             
All people say "Hail!" to the Virgin Mother of the saints,

k'ell'à ingemgnosa kiave ke li serra tutto quanti:                 
for she has the ingenious key which locks everything there is:

ell'è porto lor suave, ell'è stella de l'irranti;                         
she is their sweet harbour, she is the star of the lost,

tutta la celestial corte la resguarda tutto l'ore.                    
the whole heavenly court gazes at her at every hour.


Faciamo laude a tutt'i sancti colla vergene maggiure,          
Let us sing praise to all the saints, with the noble Virgin,

de buon core, cum dolçe canti, per amor del creatore.        
with a good heart, with sweet songs, through the love of the Creator.

Text: Edwin Morgan
Duration: c. 6'
Male Choir
First performance Estonia Symphony Hall, Tallinn January 30 2008
Estonian National Male Choir, conductor Kaspars Putnins

Note : The Summons

The Summons

The year was ending, and the land lay still.

Despite our countdown, we were loath to go,

kept padding along the ridge, the broad glow

of the city beneath us, and the hill

swirling with a little mist. Stars were right,

plans, power; only now this unforeseen

reluctance, like a slate we could not clean

of characters, yet could not read, or write

our answers on, or smash, or take with us.

Not a hedgehog stirred. We sighed, climbed in, locked.

If it was love we felt, would it not keep,

and travel where we travelled? Without fuss

we lifted off, but as we checked and talked

a far horn grew to break that people's sleep.


Edwin Morgan (from Sonnets from Scotland)

Text: Edwin Morgan
Duration: c. 3'
Male Choir
First performance Estonia Symphony Hall, Tallinn January 30 2008
Estonian National Male Choir, conductor Kaspars Putnins

Note : Text of Memento

Text of Memento

over the cliff-top and into the mist

across the heather and down to the peat

here with the sheep and where with the peeweet

through the stubble and by the pheasant's tryst

above the pines and past the northern lights

along the voe and out to meet he ice

among the stacks and round their kreidekreis

in summer lightning and beneath white nights

behind the haar and in front of the tower

beyond the moor and against writ and ring

below the mort-gate and outwith all kind

under the hill and at the boskless bower

over the hills and far away to bring

over the hills and far away to mind


Edwin Morgan (from Sonnets from Scotland)

Text: George Bruce
Duration 10'
Male choir, solo double bass, solo baritone, strings (violas, celli, basses)

Note : Ian in the Broch

Ian in the Broch

For solo baritone, solo double bass, male choir, strings

Text: George Bruce

For a recent work, for string quartet and 4 part vocal ensemble commissioned for Steve Reich's 70th birthday, I chose two poems by the Scottish poet George Bruce, whose work I discovered when setting sonnets by Edwin Morgan. I decided to use his poem, Ian in the Broch, for a new work for the Estonian National Male Choir and to use the same forces as those in Schubert's Gesang der Geister über den Wassen, which is included in my concert with the choir. Schubert uses only low strings (violas downwards), which is something I have used in many works starting with my first opera Medea (1982) and this is a formation that characterises my own ensemble, which has 2 violas, cello and bass at its heart. Here, though, I also add a solo baritone voice and an obligato solo double bass (written specially for Daniel Nix, the soloist in my bass concerto, which also has no violins in the orchestra).

George Bruce is a poet from the east of Scotland (Edwin Morgan is from the west) and write also in Scots, an essentially east coast language (Gaelic is from the west) and wrote a number of poems in this language (Edwin Morgan translated Mayakovsky into Scots). "Broch", for example, is the local Scots name for the east coast fishing port Fraserburgh, George Bruce's home town and he also uses two Scots expressions in this poem: "fou's aa?"  ("how's everybody?") and "fit's deein?" ("what's doing?"). Ian in the Broch is a poem whose narrative is revealed in its dedication:

"To Ian McNab, civil engineer and singer, who sang the Iona Gloria in St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, at a commemoration of the 1400th anniversary of the death of Saint Columba, memorably."

There are references in the poem to the occasion when George Bruce and Ian McNab climbed the steps of the Kinnaird Head lighthouse whose three ton light could be moved by one finger, once set in motion. Bruce from one of his poems, which referred to "ballbearing frictionless lamp" but Ian McNab pointed out that they were not ballbearings but "tapered rollers" and this was the genesis of the poem.

In my setting I allude several times to Schubert's piece, especially in the orchestral strings. However, I do not quote the Iona Gloria directly, but rather allow an extended, almost baroque, expression of "Gloria" as the duet for baritone solo and double bass that ends the piece. I take this idea from the fact that, in the poem, the word is written "GLORIA!" in capital letters, and followed by an exclamation mark!

Gavin Bryars

Note : Text of Ian in the Broch

Text of Ian in the Broch

(To Ian McNab, civil engineer and singer, who sang the Iona Gloria in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, at a commemoration of the 1400th anniversary of the death of Saint Columba, memorably.)

Returned, but never away.

Rain storms at arrival, but

sun prevails. Brightness is all,

white on the wings of the glancing

fulmar. Wave breaks, white light

shakes from its blue. All one

to him at the centre, an internet

in himself: hardly a step

at the harbour, and another

McNab has a word with him.

This is the flower of friendships

engendered in the generations,

caught up now in this talk-talking

town, aaye toun, 'fou's aa?'

'fit's deeing?', and on again

as if heaven were not about him

in this place in time, where

the running boy runs forever

in the mind, yet he would know,

know his place, know how

the lighthouse light projects its beam,

timely, exact on the dark waters.

But look at the tapered rollers

bearing the weight of the

gyrating mirrors, steel supports,

that issue the light to all seamen.

Now he walks the town simply

as if the common talk's enough,

but from him, from head and lips -



George Bruce