These five Latin songs for unaccompanied mixed choir were commissioned for the Sydney Chamber Choir by Nicholas Routley, to whom they are dedicated. The choir gave the first performance in 1980 at Pearl Beach, a coastal village north of Sydney where my family and I spent seven idyllic years (1978–84). (My wife, Helen, used to present concerts in the village hall).
All except the fourth song – the ‘Hymnus ante Somnum’ by Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348–c.405 AD) – are settings of 13th century lyrics from the manuscript of Benedictbeuren, Upper Bavaria, which was discovered in the Munich Hof-Bibliothek early in the 19th century. These lyrics are concerned with the coming of spring and its attendant joys and pains of love: the pain of unrequited love is expressed in the second setting, for soprano and alto, while the hymn of Prudentius is a meditation on the healing power of sleep.
The settings are straightforwardly tuneful with a distinctly archaic quality and a strong element of pastiche. Ab Estatis Foribus is one of the very few works of mine that has no (conscious) reference to Australia, the Pacific or South East Asia.