Program Notes: Tides of Oceans

Matthew Orlovich
Carrell Tombstone
Victor Carrell

I stand over tides of ocean
by Victor Carrell

I stand over tides of ocean, an eager grace at my feet,
The rhythm of speed surrounds me and my heart throbs with its beat.
The winds play at my nostrils, and clear stars tremble near,
The taut twang of the bowsprit sings music to my ear.
The rhythm of speed surrounds me.
The tumbling waves dash madly in the cauldron far below,
And creaking booms swing sadly obscuring the moonlit glow.

A moon-path stretches ghostly (fish! flash!) across the sea its hand,
And flying fish flash sparks like jewels, in a mirrored band.
Night birds in a flowing lane raucously fly the ship,
As onward, on winged feet we start our southward dip.

And now behold our course, rising from the dark of space,
A cross of gleaming stars reflects the joy upon my face.
My body thrills with life, my spirit wildly bounds,
My soul absorbs the triumph of all these joyous sounds.

I stand over tides of ocean, an eager grace at my feet,
The rhythm of speed surrounds me and my heart throbs with its beat.
I stand over tides of ocean.

Composer’s Notes

This a cappella choral score, entitled Tides of Ocean, was commissioned in 1998 for performance by The Australian Voices, directed by Stephen Leek.

A number of my earlier works for The Australian Voices have been inspired by the work of the poet-writer Victor Carell. When asked, then, to compose a new score for The Australian Voices to perform during their upcoming overseas tour, I eagerly returned to Carell’s poetry and chose to set his poem entitled “Tides of Ocean”.

Carell noted, in writing about the poem, that he came to Australia in 1947 to appear in the musical “Annie Get Your Gun”. He travelled in an ex-Liberty ship named the Marine Phoenix which was one of the first passenger ships after the war.

“It was my return home to Australia following ten years absence”, Carell wrote. “I eagerly sought the first sight of the Southern Cross as we dipped south.”

The musical setting of the poem falls broadly into four (continuous) sections. The opening section comprises rhythmic and lively music as the choir sings of standing over “tides of ocean.”

There follows a calmer music as the poem carries us into the night with images of moon-paths and flying fish flashes, culminating in a “southward dip” which involves all the tenors and basses descending to their striking lowest registers.

The slowly emerging Southern Cross and the excitement of its presence is reflected in the third section of the work by the gradual accretion of voices forming a natural crescendo. Like a frame for the work, the choir returns to the opening music before concluding.

Grateful acknowledgment is made of Butterfly Books, Springwood, NSW, Australia, for permission to set Victor Carell’s poem to music.

About the Piece

Carrell’s poem creates images and sensations of the oceans; man’s basic perception of the sea while being a simple observer rather than a participant or victim of the sea’s power. 


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