...amaris et dulcibus aquis...
09/05/1997 - London - BBC Chorus - new version: 31/08/2006 - Copenhagen - Danish National Choir
This piece was written for a project initiated by the Internationales Forum Chor Musik, which consisted of commissioning choral works by various European composers on the theme of "pilgrimage to Compostela". This theme does not necessarily imply a religious dimension, but can be considered as being the symbol of a gathering of different peoples - in particular at the time of European unity. The sung texts are excerpts from the Pilgrims Guide to Santiago de Compostela, an anonymous work from the 12th century that describes the famous Way of Saint James and the stopping points that line the various routes.
It is a sort of Michelin Guide from the Middle Ages, where practical information is placed side by side with religious legends, pious advice and descriptions that are picturesque, but often brimming with prejudice toward the peoples encountered along the route.
Four routes cut across France - traces can still be found today. After crossing the Pyrenees, they come together and form a single route that takes the name of the Camino Francés (the French Way).
Parable of a lifelong quest, the Way of St. James is marvellous and perilous: a person encounters hospitality as well as bandits. The water of certain rivers is good to drink - that of others poisonous: sweet and bitter waters...
The text is sung in the original Latin (the Latin of the Middle Ages that is a bit different from classical Latin). It describes the four routes in France and the Camino Francés in northern Spain, lists the cities that are passed through and warns about perils met on the way.
The choral writing is voluntarily rather simple, because the project consisted of writing for amateurs or semi-professionals. Written for eight mixed voices, the choir is enhanced by two synthesizers that reinforce and complement the harmonies, giving them a microtonal colour.