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Peter’s Story: ‘Linden Lea’ Friday, 12 March 2010

Posted by edincityoflit in Stories.

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra has supported Carry a Poem 2010 by asking artists featured in our February concerts to tell us about their favourite poems. These were published in 3,120 concert programmes during the month.

Peter Whelan – SCO Principal Bassoon

I have been carrying William Barnes’s Linden Lea with me since school days. The poem was set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams and, when I was seven or eight, our teacher taught my class to sing it. This wasn’t the most enlightened introduction to the poem: we had to learn the words by rote before we were allowed to sing the melody. I remember finding this frustrating, because it was the music I enjoyed — especially the way the last verse was much louder and faster than the first two. But later I came to appreciate how words and music each enhance the other.

This was quite a revelation. Now, years later, I’m still very fond of the poem and its message keeps me in check. There are plenty of hum-drum aspects to being a professional bassoonist: there are the countless evenings spent scraping reeds and long hours on the road, never mind the pre-dawn check-ins. Linden Lea reminds me of the enormous potential for creative freedom afforded by life as a musician, and the value of this in a materialistic world. (That’s why I listen to it on my i-Phone.)

Linden Lea

Within the woodlands, flow’ry gladed,

By the oak trees’ mossy moot,

The shining grass blades, timber-shaded,

Now do quiver underfoot;

And birds do whistle overhead,

And water’s bubbling in its bed;

And there, for me, the apple tree

Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

When leaves, that lately were a-springing,

Now do fade within the copse,

And painted birds do hush their singing,

Up upon the timber tops;

And brown-leaved fruits a-turning red,

In cloudless sunshine overhead,

With fruit for me, the apple tree

Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

Let other folk make money faster

In the air of dark-roomed towns;

I don’t dread a peevish master,

Though no man may heed my frowns.

I be free to go abroad,

Or take again my homeward road

To where, for me, the apple tree

Do lean down low in Linden Lea.

by William Barnes


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