Fallen is used with kind permission of Alice Corbin Henderson’s Estate Holder, Thomas Catron.
I came across Fallen whilst researching poetry by women from the First World War to set to music for the WW1 centenary, as the female voice is underrepresented in the War Song genre. I have interpreted Fallen as a soldier with PTSD reliving his trauma and poem has been recognised for its powerful portrayal of this experience from a female perspective. The piece opens with the harsh clatter and recollection of his experiences. ‘The tide passed, and the waves came and whispered about his ankles’, the memories are always there as a threatening mist. The sounds of the everyday – ‘a cock crow – children laughing’ – become an intense cacophony of sounds rather than the pleasant sounds of home, and he turns in panic to find ‘the breast of her’, the tranquil embrace of his partner. However, the din is still too much and his mind is filled with hellish images of flooded trenches and dead young men. He then feels her near him and the emotional weight is lifted, for a time… The piece reflects the changing nature of the poem and of recovery, it is never simple.
Fallen – 1914
He was wounded and he fell in the midst of hoarse shouting.
The tide passed, and the waves came and whispered about his ankles.
Far off he heard a cock crow — children laughing,
Rising at dawn to greet the storm of petals
Shaken from apple-boughs; he heard them cry,
And turned again to find the breast of her,
And sank confusèd with a little sigh…
Thereafter water running, and a voice
That seemed to stir and flutter through the trenches
And set dead lips to talking…
Wreckage was mingled with the storm of petals…
He felt her near him, and the weight dropped off —
Rose Miranda Hall
Rose Miranda Hall is a York based composer focusing on interdisciplinary composition to challenge preconceptions through opera and contemporary music theatre. Rose’s focal point is composing for the voice with a concentration on opera, theatricality and narrative. Her work has been featured at ENO’s Lillian Baylis House Formations 2016, London Festival of Song, York Spring Festival of New Music, The York Concert Series, The Centre Stage for Female Composers, And So Forth Productions, Late Music Concert Series, The Helios Collective and The Avant Music Group Association of Hong Kong.
Rose’s current focus is ‘determinedly difficult women’. Continuing with the theme of her first chamber opera, La Pucelle based on the trial of Joan of Arc, Rose has recently completed chamber opera Dead Equal with librettist Lila Palmer. Dead Equal looks at another female warrior: the first world war nurse turned soldier, Flora Sandes. Fighting on the front line in Serbia in 1916, 100 years later Dead Equal also sees Flora’s successors go into full combat roles in the British Army. Dead Equal was performed 25th November 2016 at ENO’s Lilian Bayliss House with the Helios Collective, the same month British servicewomen went fully operational. 2017 will see Palmer and Hall continue to develop Dead Equal with director Jonathan Moore to take to a bigger platform and expand into a full operatic work in the United States.
Rose was awarded the Nichola LeFanu composition award in 2012 for Journey to Recovery: A Requiem for the Addicted and the Recovering which took the standard liturgical texts and placed them against existing quotes, pieces of poetry and prose alongside texts commissioned from recovering addicts for the project. A continuation of the theme of addiction and recovery led to her composing And the Ocean Smells Like Lilacs in Late August… in 2013, a song cycle for baritone and piano written for and using poetry by the American Pulitzer Prize winning poet Franz Wright who passed away in 2014. Rose was awarded second prize for For Amber with English Collective of Singers and Speakers who commissioned work with poetry by Marian Lines which went on to be performed at the London Festival of Song in Covent Garden by Stephen Varcoe and Nigel Foster and published in Volume X of A Century of English Song.