• Justin Connolly
  • Spelt from Sybil's Leaves (1989)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)
  • 3hn2perc2hp.pfbgtr
  • soprano, mezzo soprano, tenor, baritone, bass
  • 10 min

Programme Note

Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves is a motet for voices and instruments whose text deals with the mystery of prophecy and the nature of oracular utterance. Its title comes from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

The main part of the work is a setting of this text. It is preceded by a brief introduction whose Latin words are by the composer Lassus, taken from his introductory motet to a series called Prophetiae Sibylarum - settings of sayings attributed to the twelve sibyls of Classical antiquity. The final section uses an extract from the twentieth-century Greek poet George Seferis, in which, on a visit to Mycenae, he seems to hear all around him the voices of the past.

The six voices are divided into three pairs, each with their own instrumental support. The music attempts to create the mysterious atmosphere in which such prophetic utterances were once experienced; a shamanic rite conducted in a darkened cave full of hollow echoes and the smell of the burning laurel used as a psychotropic drug.

© Justin Connolly