Gwyneth Walker

Crossing the Bar

for Voice and Piano (2000)
(Various choral settings of this work are also available.)

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This musical setting of the Tennyson poem, Crossing the Bar, was created in memory of the composer's mother, Adele Frank Walker, whose love of music lasted a lifetime. The song was premiered at the Memorial Service on September 23, 2000, at the First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan, Connecticut. Performers were Denise Walker (Soprano) and Gwyneth Walker (piano).

The poem focuses on the image of a boat putting out to sea, as a metaphor for the Final Voyage of our lives: "And may there be no sadness of farewell/when I embark."

The musical interpretation frames the poem with introductory and closing piano passages which may be heard as the spirit initially descending from heaven (to impart the message of the song to us) and then re-ascending, in peace. Within the body of the song, each of the four verses receives a distinct setting, especially in the piano accompaniment, as suggested by the lyrics "the tide moving, the evening bell, the flood..."

The concluding lines of the poem, "I hope to see my Pilot face to face/when I have crossed the bar," are brought back several times. The final statement transforms the words affirmatively into: "For I can see my Pilot face to face, across the bar!"

Notes by the composer