Early Spring

Program Notes:

This beautiful a cappella arrangement by Kathleen Allan evokes first the happiness of a young bride and then her confusion and despair when her husband is lost at sea. I have always found the time-shifts in this song fascinating, as though the grieving bride is so lost and confused that the past, present, and future are freely interchangeable. The arranger, originally from Newfoundland and its fine singing traditions, now lives in Vancouver.

Conductor Notes:

This is a favourite of mine among Kathleen’s fine work. For SSA (divisi in all parts) a cappella, the shifts between unison and much richer harmonies and the unfolding of the story both invite different tone colours. Inherent in the melody is a tendency to flat the end of the phrases – we worked on this a lot!

Composer / Arranger Notes:

When I first moved to Vancouver to pursue my undergraduate in composition in 2007, I dreamed of one day meeting the BC choral gurus I had admired from the other coast. I knew that Diane Loomer was one of the most revered conductors and arrangers in the country, and I had sung several of her arrangements while in high school in Newfoundland. I never thought that within the first few months of my first year, I would be sitting across from her at a diner in Kerrisdale eating breakfast and asking her about the early days of Elektra. By the end of our meeting, she had agreed to program (and later publish) my ​Early Spring​ a Newfoundland folksong arrangement that I had written in my Grade 12 year back home. Little did I know that those pancakes in Kerrisdale would lead to a long and fruitful relationship with Elektra. Elektra was the first major Vancouver choir to perform my work and formed the bridge between my choral world on the East Coast and my new choral life in the West.
I remember the process of arranging Early Spring very vividly. I was at my family’s cabin a few hours outside of St. John’s in the small town of Terra Nova. Growing up, this was where I felt most at peace and was able to compose most freely. It was on this particular weekend that I had one of my first experiences with a visual quasi-hallucination of the musical sounds. The notes became characters that interacted with one another, and the music felt like it wrote itself. This has happened on rare occasions since then, but I remember especially the final ascension of the soprano solo as one of the most forceful musical impulses I’ve experienced. It had a mind of its own, weightless and inevitably rising to the upper tonic, like the spirit of the lost lover singing itself into the heavens.


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





Early spring when I was young,
The birds so merrily have sung;
Was there ever a bird so happy as I When my young sailor lad was nigh?

‘Tis six long months since I’ve been wed,
The times so merrily have fled;
But tomorrow morning by the dawning of the day, The ocean presses my love away.

The eastern star is shining clear,
The day o’er-breaks on the ocean near; The sailor leaved his lonely bride, A-weeping by the ocean-side.

The time rolled on and he came no more
To see his bride on the ocean shore;
His ship went down by the rolling of the storm, And in the deep my love doth mourn.

I wish I were a-sleeping, too,

In the arms of my true love in the ocean blue; My soul to my God and my body in the sea, And the white waves rolling over me.

The eastern star is shining clear,
The day o’er-breaks on the ocean near; The sailor lies low and his lovely bride, Is weeping by the ocean-side.