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Water Lilies

author of text

Water Lilies was commissioned in 1998 to be part of ‘A Garland for Linda’, a compendium of eight anthems about the healing power of music. The previous year I had been to Kleinwalsertal on holiday and had swum in a warm lake, high up in the Allgäuer Alps. There had been rafts of flowering water lilies, which twined round my legs as I got out. It reminded me not so much of Monet as of the morbid eroticism of John Waterhouse’s painting of Hylas, lured to his death by Pre-Raphaelite nymphs in a pool of water lilies. The following winter in Austria was very harsh and I wondered what happened to the lilies, whether they could survive being frozen. I looked it up and found that the buds for next year’s flower form in the summer under water and often freeze in winter. This struck me as a wonderful symbol for surviving serious illness and I decided to write my own poem for the Garland. This took a long time, and may have been the reason why I only took two weeks to write the anthem itself.

The idea was to create a tapestry of sound, multi-dividing the choir and having lots of tiny solos which would further thin out the texture. This was something akin to dots of impressionistic paint. The work opens in a dream-like way where the word ‘nympheas’ rises from the texture like sirens calling. The sound is warm and dreamy but gradually becomes more worrying. In the middle section all is ice with tiny staccato chords and long high melodic lines. Finally the summer returns, ecstatically, and the water lilies flower.

from notes by Judith Bingham © 2008


Bingham: Remoter worlds & other choral works
SIGCD144Download only


Track 5 on SIGCD144 [7'03] Download only

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD144 track 5

Recording date
1 February 2008
Recording venue
St Paul's Church, Knightsbridge, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Michael Emery
Recording engineer
Marvin Ware
Hyperion usage
  1. Bingham: Remoter worlds & other choral works (SIGCD144)
    Disc 1 Track 5
    Release date: November 2008
    Download only
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