The Gates of Time
for chamber orchestra, choir and soprano soloist


- Instrumentation: -

chamber orchestra
soprano soloist

- Duration: -

Approximately 17 minutes.

- Recordings & Soundclips: -

There is a good quality recording of this work (enquire via Daniel X Music).

listen to the opening of 'The Gates of Time'
(6 minutes 47 seconds - 6.35MB MP3)

- Score: -

Available from composer - please enquire.

- Origins/Commission/Dedications: -

Originally commissioned by The Thomas Tallis Society to mark the Millennium, and dedicated to Tommy Flemming.

- Premieres/Performances: -

‘The Gates Of Time’ was premiered by The Thomas Tallis Society at St Alfege Church, Greenwich, London, 1999, conducted by the composer.

- Composer’s comments: -

A work for the millennium, and for a choir in Greenwich, inevitably focused upon Time as its subject matter. Not many humans live across changes of millennia, and so it seemed a portentous moment at which to dwell upon one of the great metaphysical mysteries.

A whole stream of themes were then picked up in the whirlwind-like music - a rapper I heard chanting the line "England you have changed; change again"; fragments of Shakespeare’s Sonnets; Francis Thompson’s great poem 'The Kingdom Of God', which muses on the ungraspability of reality. Finally, the power of human love is pitted against the mortal mercilessness of time as its only antagonist.

The personal relationship whose end was recorded elsewhere (in my String Quartet No. 1) is here in full flow, informing the music with an energy which, "clinging heaven by the hem", ends in dark resolution - the soprano, for a moment beforehand, opening a vista into the realms above. After attending the rehearsals in Blackheath, I recall emerging from Charing Cross Station (which is mentioned in the Thompson poem) feeling physically detached from the Earth - what is known as "walking on air", I suppose.

The music was written just before the human relations that informed it began, but was then orchestrated as they unfolded. Orchestration, in my case, is not just a colouring-in, but is a fully-functional development of structure and meaning; and so this process recorded a certain intensity, captured in the elaborations.

- Keith Burstein, 18th November 2009



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