Halcyon Shores

Carolina Chamber Music Festival

Commissioned and premiered by the Carolina Chamber Music Festival in their inaugural year. First performance at Christ Episcopal Church in New Bern, NC on September 13, 2003.

Halcyon Shores was inspired by the early childhood memory of summer days spent on the sandy beaches of Bogue Banks in North Carolina. This memory rears itself in my music quite often, but I am very grateful that this commission by the Carolina Chamber Music Festival in their inaugural year has allowed and inspired me to devote an entire composition to it. A contemplative day alone on a beach (or in the forest, or on a plain) has the dual quality of being extremely mellow and extremely active. One hypnotizes oneself into a receptive state, and then the subtleties of Nature assert themselves. This is truly a recurring theme in my music, as I find myself very often summoning the sounds of Nature to mingle with man-made sounds–including previously heard music, industrial noise, and speech.

But Halcyon Shores is devoted almost exclusively to Nature, and to the sparkling Atlantic tidewaters of North Carolina, and to the carefree, ultra-receptive, explorative days of youth. The atmosphere is set by the cello, playing only two pitches. The violin enters similarly with harp accents and one or two new pitches. There is no regular tempo here, only the rhythmically random agreements and disagreements of……perhaps the waves, perhaps the wind and sand in those crispy sea oats up in the dunes. The flute is added, and the notes grow as Nature overtakes the human observer and a play–dramatic, romantic, complex, simple–unfolds. I was guided by the sights and sounds I remembered: sunlight glinting on waves, the grins of whitecaps, a buoy, seagulls (of course!), clouds, the infinite plays of waves. For a while, it all seems to make sense. The human observer puts this music into a steady tempo, but it resists. Eventually he or she is awakened from this hypnotic state and returns home.

The title came about when I was looking for names of goddesses of the sea–to project the maternal nature of Nature. I hit upon Ovid’s account of Alcyone and Ceyx. She was changed into a kingfisher by the gods after she threw herself into the sea upon finding the body of her drowned husband Ceyx washed up on the shore. The seven days preceding the Winter Solstice and the seven days after it are know as the Halcyon Days, named after her. It was during this time, according to ancient Greek mythology, that Alcyone kept the waters peaceful and calm so that she could build her nest upon the surface of the sea and sit on it until her eggs hatched.


Flute, Violin, Cello and Harp