Away from the Roll of the Sea

Program Notes:

This contemporary Nova Scotia folk song holds a special place in Elektra Women’s Choir’s repertoire because it was arranged by our co-founder and Conductor Emerita Diane Loomer with piano accompaniment by John C. O’Donnell. Wherever we perform it, the theme of life by the water seems to resonate with listeners.

Conductor Notes:

SSAA and piano. This lovely, rolling Nova Scotia tune describing boats at rest in the harbour, connects with almost any group or any age that sings it. Part of this appeal comes from the fact that the words imply more than one meaning. On the surface they state that no one can know by simply looking at the boats in safe harbour what adventures or hardships they have endured; the implied meaning is of course that no one can possibly know from looking at them, the adventures and histories of people’s lives. Because I originally wrote this arrangement for Elektra and piano accompaniment, I decided to try to stay within folksong tradition. Therefore the resultant tessitura is quite low. This certainly celebrates the glorious colour of Elektra’s second altos but does not suit young children’s choirs as well as it does a women’s choir. Textual clarity and expressive singing are two of the main goals in singing and arranging this piece. The rhythmic challenge for the conductor and the choir is to find the correct tempo that allows the singers to feel it in ‘one’, singing the soothing, regular rhythm of ‘the roll of the sea’ while delivering clarity, precision and communicated meaning through the words. (Note by Diane Loomer) Added note by Morna Edmundson: Diane never conducted this as slowly as indicated on the published sheet music. It was more like quarter = 120, and always conducted in one, therefore whole bar at 40 beats per minute.


This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.





Small craft in a harbour that’s still and serene give no indication what their ways have been. They rock at their moorings all nestled in dreams, away from the roll of the sea. Their stern lines are groaning a lullaby air, a ghost in the cuddy, a gull on the spar. But never they whisper of journeys afar, away from the roll of the sea. Oh had they the tongues for to speak what tales of adventure they’d weave. But now they are anchored to sleep and slumber alee. Come fair winds to wake them tomorrow we pray. Come harvest a-plenty to them every day, Till guided by harbour lights they’re home to stay, away from the roll of the sea.