The centrepiece of our next concert, Leap of Faith, is the WORLD PREMIERE of a work by Halifax-based composer Peter-Anthony Togni for two flutes and double mixed chorus. The ensemble will perform Sea Dreams, commissioned by Luminous Voices and Sara Hahn, with support from Paul Brown and the Canada Council for the Arts.
My family and I have been living in Nova Scotia, Canada, for almost 20 years. From the back of our house we can see the Atlantic Ocean, cargo ships moving slowly and the Halifax Shipyard. I cross the Macdonald Bridge into the City of Halifax almost everyday, and everyday the ocean seems slightly different; even when it's still and looks like glass, it's never truly calm. The water is deep, dark, and commands respect!
Sea Dreams is a work that reflects my relationship to the ocean and my thoughts about a journey of faith, a journey full of questions, fears, longings, hopes, dreams, and the gifts of disappointment. One has to be open; in the words of the Buddhist meditation master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, to be open means 'giving up your demand .... learning to trust in the fact that you do not need to secure your ground, learning to trust is your fundamental richness.'
Much of my inspiration comes from T.S. Eliot's 'The Dry Salvages' from The Four Quartets. The central image is water and sea. Eliot suggests that if we just accept the idea of drifting on the ocean, we will end up broken upon the rocks. The water becomes a metaphor for life and how humans behave. One has to trust that the buoy or bell that seems to ring in the distance can often be closer than we think. The prayer to the Virgin Mary in the poem is there to help guide the metaphorical sailors to their harbours of safety.
I scored Sea Dreams for two mixed choirs and two flutes. Each choir represents a ship on the water; they pass in the night but are deeply connected because they are on the same sea, both looking to the stars, a beacon of light, or a bell for direction and safety. Each ship has a seagull following it; these gulls represent the passage of time, angels, flowing thoughts, emptiness, ghosts, hope, and the Holy Spirit.
There are times in the piece where there is a letting go, the music behind the music, whispered sounds, and chords that almost melt into themselves. One ceases to hear the text, almost sound for the sake of sound, a dream-like state that reminds us we can live with the sea but will never master it. Getting into a boat or on a ship is a kind of leap of faith: we can only pray and trust that the journey will be successful.
Peter-Anthony Togni is an award-winning composer, pianist, organist, conductor and former CBC broadcaster. He has toured internationally, performs currently as part of Blackwood, and his recordings are broadcast worldwide. Togni's Responsio, performed by Luminous Voices in May 2016, won the 2014 Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award. In 2016, Peter's opera Isis and Osiris premiered to critical acclaim in Toronto. Togni teaches at Acadia University and is the organist and choir master of the Principle Choir at St Benedict Parish in Halifax. For more information, visit www.petertogni.com.