Exmoor Explorations 7: Sunday 11 June 2017

Shipwrecks, islands, seascapes

1400 – 2100 on SUNDAY 11 June 2017

Peter McGarr – Love you big as the sky (Lindisfarne Love Song)
Jaakko MäntyjärviCanticum calamitatis maritimae

You can find more information about both works in the Conductor’s notes below.

More about Exmoor Explorations.


Holy Trinity, Prince Consort Road, SW7 2BA. Nearest tubes Gloucester Road or South Kensington.


£15 cash on the door including music, tea and coffee.

Provisional Timetable

1400 Rehearsal
1515 Short break
1530 Rehearsal
1645 Short break
1700 Rehearsal
1815 High tea (see below) and solo run-throughs
1900 Revision as required
2015 Informal performance of both items (friends are welcome to come and listen)
2100 Finish

How to Apply

Simply fill in this short form. Please apply by Monday 5 June so we have time to produce the scores.

Conductor’s Notes

This seventh Exploration embodies two works, by composers with close personal links with Exmoor Singers of London, one an Exmoor Singers commission for the Tallis Festival Choir. In addition to the common theme of shipwrecks, coincidentally they both have texts drawn from multiple sources.

Jaakko Mäntyjärvi’s 8-part Canticum calamitatis maritimae [‘Song of a disaster at sea’] is dedicated to the memory of those who perished in the shipwreck of the Estonia off the Finnish coast on 28 September 1994. The Latin text comprises extracts from the Requiem mass, from Psalm 107 (‘They that go down to the sea in ships’) and a Latin translation of contemporary news reports of the sinking. An audio recording, including a glimpse of the score (plus a very fetching picture of the composer) can be found here.

Peter McGarr’s 40-part motet Love you big as the sky (Lindisfarne Love Song) was written for Tallis Festival 2007. McGarr sets a complex tapestry of texts including star and cloud names, children’s lullabies, haiku, diary fragments, valentine cards, the Farne Isles, shipwrecks and lighthouses of the Farnes and the 16th-century poem Western Wynde all woven into the poem Lindisfarne by poet Jean Florence. The climax of the piece features words from the Song of Songs: Love is as strong as death.

The premiere was broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Audio clips from the first performance can be found here and there’s an extensive discussion of the piece between Pete and me here.

We invariably refer to the work as ‘LYBATS’.

Peter says of the piece:
“I love you.”
“How much do you love me, Daddy?”
“I love you big as the sky.”

It’s a memory from my wife’s childhood. The moment she told me, I just knew I had to use these words – they seemed to evoke so much. Love you big as the sky, written for 40-part choir, is a love song set in and around the island of Lindisfarne. It moves from clouds and stars to sea and land, setting the poem ‘Lindisfarne’ by poet Jean Florence.

Other text sources include cloud names, children’s lullabies, haiku, diary fragments, Valentine cards, the Farne isles, shipwrecks, lighthouses and the 16th century poem ‘Western Wynde.’

Each section is echoed by a remnant from a traditional vocal form (mass, chorale, opera, song-cycle, cantata etc).

The climax of the piece features a 6-bar oratorio on words from the Song of Songs, ‘Love is as strong as death’. Everything ends with the words:

‘We shall return as birds to this island,
Our love as big as the sky.
Love you big as the sky.’


Tea and coffee will be provided at suitable intervals. Bring your own supper, forage locally, or bring a larger dish (roughly 9-12 average portions) to share. Keep a note of all the ingredients, please!


The Canticum contains roles for a light/folky solo first soprano and a solo tenor/baritone. You would need to do some advance preparation. If you are interested, please say so on the application form and we’ll organise the necessary logistics.


Listen to the Tallis Festival Choir performing McGarr’s Love you big as the sky
Composer Peter McGarr and James Jarvis discuss the piece.
Listen to Mäntyjärvi’s Canticum calamitatis maritimae