Commissioned by Dr Bernie Sherlock and New Dublin Voices With the support of the Arts Council of Ireland

  • 4 min

Programme Note


THE Powers whose name and shape no living creature knows,
Have pulled the Immortal Rose;
And though the Seven Lights bowed in their dance and wept,
The Polar Dragon slept, 
His heavy rings uncoiled from glimmering deep to deep:
When will he wake from sleep?

Great Powers of falling wave and wind and windy fire,
With your harmonious choir,
Encircle her I love and sing her into peace,
That my old care may cease;
Unfold your flaming wings and cover out of sight
The nets of day and night.

Dim Powers of drowsy thought, let her no longer be
Like the pale cup of the sea,
When winds have gathered and sun and moon burned Dim
Above its cloudy rim;
But let a gentle silence wrought with music flow
Whither her footsteps go.

W. B. Yeats

When Dr Bernie Sherlock approached me to commission a setting of W B Yeats poem for New Dublin Voices, I’m ashamed to say that I wasn’t familiar with his work… But it gave me a fantastic opportunity to read through his Collected poems – so many jumped out at me, begging to be set.

The Poet Pleads with the Elemental Powers chimed with me especially – the desperation of having to draw so profoundly deeply for nebulous creative inspiration then being swept away with it once it arrives, chimed with the passionate turbulence and Celtic mysticism in this poem.

The direction for the performers, from the start is ‘Stormy’ – the elemental powers are relentless and create a constant chromatic swirling accompaniment in one half of the choir, whilst the other half describe the form that the Elemental Powers take.

The last verse feels like a prayer of sorts to me, so this is a quieter, more reflective and hymn-like part. However the final chord is strong but unsettled in its harmony, as if there will never be complete rest from those stormy powers.

I am very grateful to Bernie for this commission and the Arts Council of Ireland for its funding support.

It lasts approximately 4 minutes.

RP, 4th December 2023