Sailor's Question, The

Composed by Kathleen Allan
Voicing: SSA
Instrumentation: a cappella
Catalog number: AMP 0749
Price: $1.70

Performance Notes

“The Sailor's Question” is a folksong written to illustrate the uncertainty of the life of one who is constantly traveling. The melody should be sung very freely and expressively, with more attention to the communication of the words than the markings in the score, at the discretion of the conductor. The piece was originally written as a folksong for solo voice, so taking liberties as a group with rhythm and pitch inflection is encouraged. Enjoy all the consonants, especially W's, L's and M's, without dragging the tempo between phrases where pauses are not intended.

The story and characters of the text were inspired by the story of Ann and Seamus by Kevin Major, and Stephen Hatfield's chamber opera of the same title, both of which are based on the true story of Ann Harvey and her family on Isle-aux-Morts, Newfoundland, in 1828. The modal interplay between the major B-mixolydian and the minor B-aeolian represents the questions: Will I see this place again? Will I meet these people again? Will I stay or go? Is the key major or minor? A possible answer to the “unresolved clues” (i.e. the open fifths in the last verse) is suggested at the end by the resolution to a D-sharp on the word “you”.

Kathleen Allan, 2008

Click here to see a sample.

Click here to listen to a recording (MP3).

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