The Dane Tree

  • Duration: 16 minutes
  • Soloist(s): Baritone
  • Chorus: SATB
  • Instrumentation: Oboe, Trumpet, Timpani & Strings
  • Published by: Novello

The poem of the same name by Alfred Noyes (1880-1958), written to mark the inauguration of the BBC’s overseas long wave transmissions from Daventry in 1925, provides the text for this choral work.  The poem describes a solitary tree which sees years and years of history, where humans come and go, but where the one constant through memories created and lost, is the tree.  The baritone solo represents the ‘lone’, isolated ‘sentinel’ and, with the choir, symbolise the roots of the tree reaching deep into the earth and bringing to the surface rich memories of old.  The Dane Tree was commissioned by Daventry Choral Society for their 25th anniversary concert in 2015.

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Daventry calling… Dark and still,
The dead men sleep at the foot of the hill.
The dark tree, set on the height by the Dane,
Stands like a sentry over the slain.
Bowing his head above their tomb,
Till trumpet rends the seals of doom.
Earth has forgotten their ancient wars.
But the lone tree rises against the stars,
Whispering, “Here in my heart I keep,
Mysteries, deep as the world is deep.
Deeper far then the world ye know,
Is the world through which my voices go…”

Daventry calling… Wind and rain,
Against my voices light in vain.
The world through which my messages fare,
Is not of the earth, and not of the air.
When the black hurricane rides without,
My least melodies quell its shout.
My mirth and music, jest and song,
Shall through the very thunders throng.
You shall hear their lightest tone,
Stealing through your walls of stone.
Till your loneliest valleys hear,
The far cathedral’s whispered prayer.
And thoughts that speed the world’s desire,
Strike to your heart beside your fire.
And the mind of half the world,
Is in each little house unfurled.
Till time and Space are a dwindling dream,
And my true kingdoms round you gleam.

And ye discern the thing ye crave,
That I go deeper than the grave.
I, the sentinel; I, the tree,
Who binds all worlds in unity,
So that, sitting around your hearth,
Ye are at one with all the earth.

Daventry calling: memory, love,
The grave beneath, and the stars above,
Even in my laughter you shall hear,
The power to whom the far is near.
All are in one circle bound,
And all that ever was lost is found.

Daventry calling… Daventry calling…
Daventry calling… Dark and still…
The tree of memory stands like a sentry
Over the grave on the silent hill.

Words: Alfred Noyes (1880 – 1958)

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