• Stephen McNeff
  • The Celestial Stranger (2023)
    (For Tenor and Orchestra)

  • Peters Edition Limited (World)

Co-commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and RTE and first performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales on 16 May 2024 at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff

Commissioner exclusivity applies

1. The Celestial Stranger 2. On Leaping Over the Moon 3. As Time Draws Nigh 4. The Hand that Signed the Paper 5. Farewell to Thee

  • T + 2+pic.2+ca.2+bcl.2+cbn/4.3.2+btbn.0/timp.perc.sd.tom.bdr.pdlbdr.chcym.suspcym.tam.crot.marktree.glock.mba.vib.xyl.templebloc/hp/windchms/str
  • Tenor
  • 20 min
  • Dylan Thomas, Queen Lydia Kamakaeha Lili’uokalani , Thomas Traherne and Walt Whitman

Programme Note

The Celestial Stranger was inspired by the rediscovery in 1997 in the library of Lambeth Palace in London of texts by the Seventeenth Century cleric and mystic, Thomas Traherne. In these Traherne imagins a person from another world discovering earth and being enchanted by its beauty: “this little star, so wide and so full of mysteries." In this cycle of songs our Stranger goes on to marvel at natural wonders and recounts how his (or her) brother imagines that in jumping over a stream in the moonlight he falls into a reverse world and ‘leaps over the moon’. Drawing on other poets like Walt Whitman and Dylan Thomas, the cycle describes a broad narrative arc. In 'As Time Draws Nigh'', the realities of the earth wake the Stranger up to the warlike industrialisation of society, and the prophetic fear of a totalitarian regime are expressed in 'The Hand that Signed the Paper’. Understanding the imperfections of the word, our traveller takes their regretful leave – perhaps one day to return.


Stephen McNeff 

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