Three Choral Idylls

Three Choral Idylls

Jonathan Ellis, who has given the definitive performances
of the piano accompaniments | Photograph copyright © Celia Lansley

What is it?

Three Choral Idylls consists of three of the songs from my 2016 song cycle Idylls, set for four-part (SATB) choir and piano. The lyrics are verses from three poems by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The songs are

The songs do not necessarily need to be performed together.


The songs use verses selected from three poems by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.


Love is and was my Lord and King

Love is and was my Lord and King,
And in his presence I attend
To hear the tidings of my friend,
Which every hour his couriers bring.

Love is and was my King and Lord,
And will be, tho' as yet I keep
Within his court on earth, and sleep
Encompass'd by his faithful guard,

And hear at times a sentinel
Who moves about from place to place,
And whispers to the worlds of space,
In the deep night, that all is well.


Of old sat Freedom on the heights

Of old sat Freedom on the heights,
The thunders breaking at her feet:
Above her shook the starry lights:
She heard the torrents meet.

There in her place she did rejoice,
Self-gather'd in her prophet-mind,
But fragments of her mighty voice
Came rolling on the wind.

Then stept she down thro' town and field
To mingle with the human race,
And part by part to men reveal'd
The fulness of her face—

Grave mother of majestic works,
From her isle-altar gazing down,
Who, God-like, grasps the triple forks,
And, King-like, wears the crown:

Her open eyes desire the truth.
The wisdom of a thousand years
Is in them. May perpetual youth
Keep dry their light from tears;

That her fair form may stand and shine,
Make bright our days and light our dreams,
Turning to scorn with lips divine
The falsehood of extremes!


Crossing the bar

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.


For the time being these are synthesised renditions of the songs. If you'd like your own performance(s) to be featured here, send me the details!



Helvellyn, which epitomises 'Of old'

It was while writing the five songs that comprise Idylls that it occurred to me that three of them would work well as choral arrangements. I hesitated over 'Of old sat Freedom on the heights' only because the piano part is not exactly easy, but when a friend commented simply "Wow!" on hearing my first run-through I decided to include it.

Initially I published the songs separately and I know from sales reports that 'Of old' has been performed in that form. Nevertheless, grouping them together in one competitively priced package seemed a potentially attractive proposition for choirs looking for competition material.

Chesil Beach

Chesil Beach, Dorset, at sunset

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