Hymn (2022)

Hymn, a work for solo cello and orchestra in three movements, takes its inspiration from a variety of sources. The first movement, The Sun, was inspired by a poem of the same name, by Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004). The poem opens with:

“All colours come from the sun. And it does not have

Any particular colour, for it contains them all…”

This ties into the idea of exploring the classical Hindustani Raag Des. The piece begins from a fixed central point (much like the idea of an alap introduction in classical Indian music)– one unison pitch, here carried by the string section– gradually melting into various other orchestral colours– then, radiating outward from its unison beginnings, to explore a full range of the orchestral palette.

The second movement, Hymn, was inspired by another poem by Czeslaw Milosz:

“There is no one between you and me.

Neither a plant drawing sap from the depths of earth

Nor an animal, nor a man, nor wind walking between the clouds.

The most beautiful bodies are like transparent glass.

The most powerful flames like water washing the tired feet of travelers.

The greenest trees like lead blooming in the thick of the night.

Love is sand swallowed by parches lips.”

This movement takes its inspiration from a melodic fragment of a hymn, Oh, Love, How Deep, attributed to 14th century monk, Thomas à Kempis. The music grows from these pure, austere beginnings into something warm and passionate.

This leads into the third movement, Light, inspired by a poem of the same name– written by 14th century Persian poet, Shamsedin-Mohamed Hafez Shirazi. This movement explores some playful rhythmic patterns and cascading scales, contrasted against steady, supporting long tones.

“I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness

The astonishing light of your own being!

…One regret, dear world, that I am determined not to have

Is that I did not kiss you enough.

Look what happens with a love like that–

It lights the whole sky.”


Sheet music (score and parts) are available through the Canadian Music Centre.