Wind on the Downs (2017)

chamber orchestra (flute, clarinet, trumpet & strings), and female narrator
10 min. 15 sec.

Wind on the Downs was inspired by a poem of the same name by British writer, Marian Allen. The poem was written in May 1917, a few days after Allen heard the news that her fiancé, Arthur Tylston Greg, had been killed in an air battle over France. He was 22 years old.

You will hear a female narrator reading Allen’s poem, while the music leads the listener on a path through the various emotional stages of grieving a loved one.  The piece incorporates some melodic ideas based on military bugle calls, which will gently morph as the poet winds her way through the journey of making sense of her loss.  Although the poem is a very personal one, I believe it’s also universal—the challenge of moving through the loss of someone close, to eventually find some kind of renewed hope in life.

Wind on the Downs was commissioned by the Allegra Chamber Orchestra, and received its premiere at Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver, Canada, on Remembrance Day (November 11th), 2017.


“I like to think of you as brown and tall,
As strong and living as you used to be,
In khaki tunic, Sam Brown belt and all,
And standing there and laughing down at me.
Because they tell me, dear, that you are dead,
Because I can no longer see your face,
You have not died, it is not true, instead
You seek adventure in some other place.
That you are round about me, I believe;
I hear you laughing as you used to do,
Yet loving all the things I think of you;
And knowing you are happy, should I grieve?
You follow and are watchful where I go;
How should you leave me, having loved me so?

We walked along the towpath, you and I,
Beside the sluggish-moving, still canal;
It seemed impossible that you should die;
I think of you the same and always shall.
We thought of many things and spoke of few,
And life lay all uncertainly before,
And now I walk alone and think of you,
And wonder what new kingdoms you explore.
Over the railway line, across the grass,
While up above the golden wings are spread,
Flying, ever flying overhead,
Here still I see your khaki figure pass,
And when I leave the meadow, almost wait,
That you should open first the wooden gate.”

–Marian Allen (1892-1953)


Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre.