The native singing cultures and literary traditions of Estonia and Latvia have entered Gabriel Jackson’s sphere of creative influences over the course of regular visits to the Baltic region. A ship with unfurled sails
leads the ear directly to the words of Doris Kareva, one of Estonia’s leading poets, conveyed here in the English of Eric Dickens and underpinned for much of the piece by a lilting riff for divided altos. The work was created in the summer of 2009 for Joy Hill’s Vigala Singers, the Royal Junior College of Music alumni chamber choir. Kareva’s imagery elicits yearning melodies from Jackson and, of equal expressive significance, periodic silences timed to fall between the poet’s lines. Her text predates Estonia’s independence from Soviet rule, its long-awaited ship ‘under no flag’ clearly intended as a metaphor for freedom. A hypnotic vocalise of quaver triplets, voiced by divided sopranos and altos, stands halo-like above the composer’s wistful setting of ‘Imperceptibly all is changed’ for unison tenors and basses. The passage’s sense of expectation is resolved with a sublime final modulation from minor to major mode and the consequent reassurance that ‘all arrives so secretly’.
from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2013