I wrote this piece for conductor Larry Nickel and his choir “Jubilate” for their Spring 2014 concert. It was also recently performed by the Vancouver Chamber in Winter of 2014. The fabulous text was written by the American poet Adam Dromgoole. A prolific author, poet and journalist, she died in 1934.
For me, the “cold and grey” in the first stanza, really sets the visual tone of the piece. As a composer with a large amount of film music experience I decided to pursue writing with one of my favourite filmscoring modes, Mixolyidian flat 13. This is a major scale with a flattened 6th and 7th and for me the sound has a dreamlike quality that evokes the colour grey.
The Bridge Builder
An old man going a lone highway,
Came at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast, and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim, near,
“You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide-
Why build you this bridge at the evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head:
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today,
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm, that has been naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”