Instrumental Music
The Sea and the Skylark
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The Sea and the Skylark premiere on the 29th June 2023 at Tempo Rubato by Rachael Bullen (oboe) and Matthew Kneale (bassoon)

On ear and ear two noises too old to end

Trench—right, the tide that ramps against the shore;

With a flood or a fall, low lull-off or all roar,

Frequenting there while moon shall wear and wend.


Left hand, off land, I hear the lark ascend,

His rash-fresh re-winded new-skeinèd score

In crisps of curl off wild winch whirl, and pour

And pelt music, till none’s to spill nor spend.


How these two shame this shallow and frail town!

How ring right out our sordid turbid time,

Being pure! We, life’s pride and cared-for crown,


Have lost that cheer and charm of earth’s past prime:

Our make and making break, are breaking, down

To man’s last dust, drain fast towards man’s first slime.


by Gerald Manley Hopkins

(written May 1877)


Gerald Manley Hopkins’ poem opens on a beach with him hearing two sounds simultaneously; the sea on his right, and a skylark on his left.

Hopkins then describes both sea and skylark, in two seperate stanzas. He describes both their natural beauty and the musicality of their sound.

He then contrasts them, in the next two stanzas, with the town and then man(kind). He regards both sea and the skylark as shaming the town with their purity. It is a reflection perhaps of our lost appreciation of the sounds of creation. The last stanza concludes with man’s descent and return to dust and slime.

I have followed the structure of the poem closely with four sections mirroring the four stanzas: sea, skylark, town and man.

The opening theme by the bassoon (and later joined by the oboe) is the sea theme. The solo theme later on (played by the oboe) is the skylark theme. This leads to an interlude of interplay between the two instruments and themes. Then a more rhythmic rendering of the sea theme, which represents the town, leads to the climax. Concluding the piece is the opening theme in reverse, resulting in a descending melodic line.