Seikilos

  • Composer: Joanne Metcalf 
  • Publisher: Contact the composer
  • Canadian Composition: No
  • Duration: 3:40

Conductor Notes:

Double SSA choir with some divisi within all parts and three high soprano soloists. The instructions at the beginning of this very effective and gripping piece say it should be sung in the style of the traditional Bulgarian choirs, that is to say full-bodied and extremely bright. The second half is marked misterioso. Joanne confirmed that one can let go of the bright sound and the forward drive. “Middle/misterioso – the music levels off on a plateau, withe continuous cycling pattern in the choir – so doesn’t need to have the intense “Bulgarian”-type focus. End: like a running down of time, with downward-tending lines, so also does not need to have that intense focus, as long as individual lines are very clear.” Three soprano voices soar above the choir in searing note clusters. We had some discussion with Joanne about the tempo, and she confirms that anything between 100 and 112 can work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogSDPUAYZD4

Composer / Arranger Notes:

Commissioned by Phillip Swan and Cantala

“The text of Seikilos, in ancient Greek, calls upon the listener to live life to its fullest for the duration of this mortal existence and to let the knowledge of its inherent brevity cast no shadow. I have long loved the close dissonant harmonies that are common to the choral music of traditional Bulgarian women’s choirs, and I take them as my inspiration here to highlight the rugged, primordial nature of this ancient exhortation, which was carved upon a burial stone in the 1st century CE.”

References:

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

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Greek text from the Epitaph of Seikilos
Hoson zês, phainou,
mêden holôs su lupou;
pros oligon esti to zên,
to telos ho chronos apaitei.

English Translation
For as long as you live, shine,
Do not be distressed in any way;
Life exists for a short while,
And Time demands its due.