Hiraeth is near and dear to my heart as it was simultaneously the last piece I worked on in undergrad and the first piece I worked on during my master’s (I actually showed Frank Ticheli a very early sketch of the piece in a masterclass at WMU four years ago today, back when I was writing this for solo piano!). I channeled a lot of the emotions I felt during this transitional time in my life into this piece in order to portray the sense of yearning and sentimentality that the piece is about.
It was such a cathartic experience hearing the CMU Chamber Singers bring this piece to life with their moving and heartfelt performance after all of these years!
Hiraeth (pronounced HEER-eyeth) is a Welsh term, loosely translated to a longing and nostalgia for home. More than mere homesickness, it is an expression of a bond for a home to which you cannot return; a home that never was. This piece portrays this feeling of eternal longing through unresolved dissonances and a melody riddled with anticipations and suspensions, feeling as though it is constantly chasing and unfulfilling the harmony. The text used for this piece was written by Tim Davis in 2007 and is as follows:
Hiraeth beckons with wordless call,
Hear, my soul, with heart enthrall’d.
Hiraeth whispers while earth I roam;
Here I wait the call “come home.”
Like seagull cry, like sea borne wind,
That speak with words beyond my ken,
A heartfelt cry with words unsaid,
Calls a wanderer home instead.
I heed your call, Hiraeth, I come
On westward path to hearth and home.
My path leads on to western shore,
My heart tells me there is yet more.
Within my ears the sea air sighs;
The sunset glow, it fills my eyes.
I stand at edge of sea and earth,
My bare feet washed in gentle surf.
Hiraeth’s longing to call me on,
Here, on shore, in setting sun.
Hiraeth calls past sunset fire,
“Look beyond, come far higher!”