Listen to a performance excerpt from the Navona Records release There Are Many Other Legends, track 5.
Dan Perkins, Music Director fo the New Hampshire Master Chorale, commissioned a piece to be part of a program celebrating the choral music of Finland, where he had held a Fulbright scholarship. We decided I would set an English translation of the Prologue to the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, as a companion to Veljo Tormis’ setting of the original Finnish. I turned to J.M. Crawford’s 1888 translation as my source text.
Crawford’s translation uses the same hypnotic verse rhythm (trochaic quadrameter, in technical terms) of the Finnish original, and left me free to pick and choose lines from the Prologue at will (used in the order in which they originally appear, however) to weave a seamless text for setting. Hence the title ...
MASTERED by desire impulsive,
In my mouth the words are melting,
Golden friend, and best beloved,
These are words in childhood taught me,
There are many other legends,
Blown me from the forest branches,
Many runes the cold has told me,
Waves of sea, and ocean billows,
Sentences the trees created,
Long they lay within my dwelling
Shall I bring these songs together
Shall I now these boxes open,
Shall I now the end unfasten
For the beauty of the day-dawn,
—Kalevala: Prologue (tr. J.M. Crawford, 1888, alt.)
Key words: choral, full chorus, unaccompanied, secular, traditional, nordic, saga, finland, scandinavia, challenging, music, modern, contemporary, classical, composition