All Throughout This My Life: To Mother
母難日三題: 1. 今生今世
Instrumentation: 4-part female chorus (S.S.A.A. div.) and optional piano
Duration: ca. 6'
Lyricist: Kwang-chung Yu（余光中）
Language: Cantonese Chinese
Composition Date: 2023.02
Première Date: TBC
Première Artists: Heep Yunn School Choir (Conductor: Joyce Yu)
Other Version(s): For 4-part mixed chorus (S.A.T.B. div.) and optional piano
For 4-part male chorus (T.T.B.B. div.) and optional piano
Remark: With sponsorship from CASH Music Fund, this piece is commissioned by Heep Yunn School Choir for the World Choir Games 2023.
Score Preview: Contact the Composer
Text in Original Language:
All throughout this my life
Twice in abandon did I cry.
Once, when my life began;
The other, when yours ended.
The first time, I couldn’t remember but heard from you.
The second, you wouldn’t know even if I told.
Yet all between these two cries
Long our laughter kept ringing
Again and again and again,
Ringing for fully thirty years.
This surely you did not know And surely I can’t forget.
Translated by the poet
Tones and their contours in Cantonese have been presented major obstacles in composing Cantonese choral works. As traditional choral work from the West carry deep artistic nuances, it is not possible to perform with Chinese translation. As a result, the creation of Cantonese choral work mostly stops at only aiming for the melody to fit into the tonal inflection of Cantonese, but not other choral parts. The remained few choral works achieve the goals with parallel writings in music, but which destroy the space and lyricism between melody and harmony. There are also very few works with different choral parts simultaneously singing to different words, but which are difficult to differentiate clearly. The truth is, when phonetics and semantics are distorted, the audience will find it hard to appreciate.
Based on the fruit of labour of predecessors, the composer has used counterpoint, rich harmonic syntax and an array of stratified treatments on text in order to compose a choral work that:
matches tonal inflections for all voice parts;
has audible texts for the audience;
is of a reasonable level of difficulty; and
derives melodies according to the linguistic tones of the adapted biblical text (albeit with just a little more tonal and rhythmic considerations), and connects them by building the musical structure coherently.
Based on the first poem from the poem series “Mother’s Suffering Day” by Kwang-chung YU, All Throughout This My Life is a choral setting with music after original text. With above goals of composing Cantonese choral music, the work is constructed with melodies on complete poetic lines across choral parts, along musical fragments on various phrases or incomplete lines from poem. Coherently, the music echoes the simplicity of poem.
The music is basically pantonal, which further expands the possibilities of pitch for setting text in Cantonese, by avoiding the vocal lines to be limited by the stricter tonal relativity of lyrics in Cantonese linguistics under traditional music tonality. Along pantonality, the harmonic vocabulary fully expresses the love between mothers and children, as well as the fond sentiments of life and death, and happiness and sadness in the world.