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The Everlasting Voices takes its name from the poem ‘The Everlasting Voices’ (1899) by W. B. Yeats. Like many of Yeats’s early poems, it depicts the mystical world of the Celtic tradition and is full of Celtic references and symbolism. Yeats’s plea to the ‘Everlasting Voices’ to ‘be still’ is really an entreaty to the Voices of God who the Celts believe are present in all of creation.

The opening section of the piece sets only the first line of the poem. It is concerned with the gradual unfolding of material and ideas which are developed later on during the work. A contrasting section follows, setting lines 2-4 of the poem, and brings the piece to a climax at ‘Flame under Flame’ – a reference to the flaming sword guarding the gates of the Garden of Eden. The third section begins and ends with the fifth line, ‘Have you not heard that our hearts are old?’ – Yeats’s reference to another ancient Celtic belief.

The final section of the piece draws upon material from the opening, reflecting the cyclic structure of the poem. The tonality also returns full circle to give a sense of completeness, if not a total resolution.

The Everlasting Voices was first performed by the BBC Singers as part of the spnm’s series of events 2006-07.

Elizabeth Winters