Leonard Enns

composer, conductor, Monarda Music

This Sunset Land

song cycle for solo soprano and orchestra

This Sunset Land was commissioned by Symphony Hamilton,

James McKay, music director, for the celebration of the 1996 sesquicentennial of the founding of the city of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  The title reflects a European perspective toward a land promising "acres of your own", new life, independence, and prosperity, and is taken from two lines written near the end of the 19th century by Frederick G. Scott:  

All the future lies before us

Glorious in that sunset land.

Water and land are themes that run through This Sunset Land.  They are simultaneously goal and barrier, objects of attraction and mystery, and sources of insurmountable challenge, fear and death.

The work is in five movements, the central one being for orchestra alone, entitled "Water".  Around this movement, the first and final are based on nineteenth century texts, first celebrating the hopes and then honouring the accomplishments of the pioneers; the second and fourth movements use more introspective contemporary texts, focusing in the second movement on land and in the fourth on water.

The music of the "pioneer" texts (I and V) intentionally recalls those times, while the contemporary texts are set in a more current idiom.  


The commission was supported with funding from the Ontario Arts Council. The cycle was premiered 9 November 1996 at Mohawk Theatre, Hamilton Ontario Canada by Symphony Hamilton; Elizabeth Peters, soprano; James McKay, director.


IAcres of your own


Here's the road to independence! 

Who would bow and dance attendance? 

Who, with e'er a spark of pride, 

While the bush is wild and wide, 

Would be but a hanger-on. 

Begging favours from a throne, 

While beneath yon smiling sun 

Farms, by labour, can be won? 

Up! be stirring, be alive,

Get upon a farm and thrive! 

Be a king upon a throne 

Having acres of your own! 


Tho' the cabin walls are bare, 

What of that, if love is there? 

What although your back is bent, 

There is none to hound for rent; 

What tho' you must chip and plough, 

None dare ask, "What doest thou?" 

What though homespun be your coat, 

Kings might envy you your lot! 

Up! be stirring, be alive,

Get upon a farm and thrive! 

Be a king upon a throne 

Having acres of your own!


… by Alexander M'Lachlan, altered by LE.  M'Lachlan came to Canada from Scotland in 1840 at the age of 20, living here as farmer and poet.  He had a farm at Amaranth, Ontario.


II A pioneer place


Where I walk 

myriad other feet have 

trod the founding years, 


these blue-green hills, this 

perfect sky were here 

for them as they are for me. 


And did they too 

marvel at this majesty 

or were their backs too bent 

with toil for them to see? 


This bright cavalcade – 

passing specks upon the 

pane of time 


yet they left their mark 

indelible as the landscape, 

each hewn stone of the old house 

remembers the shape of a hand. 


Filaments of souls reach out, 

touch this land 


and time, reversing 

stirs again,        like 

generations in my veins.


…by Betty Sanders Garner (used by permission of the author)



III Water (orchestra)


In its pivotal position within the five movements, this third one acknowledges the central role of water in the life of Hamilton and Canada itself--as source of transportation, power, renewal, recreation, and sheer beauty.  Although, in general, the music does not imitate water in a direct way, its shape and energy are inspired by various conditions and behaviors of water.  And, as water may function both as a mirror and a window, so the movementrecalls the energetic beginning of the first movement and anticipates the more introspective nature of the fourth.  


IV Conceptions


You said you couldn't 

understand how I could 

so dislike the sea 


When you think of the sea 

your spirits soar 

free with the gulls 

and wind-filled sails 


You do not hear

souls of lost sailors 

moaning in the deep 

and endless 




When I think of the sea 

my soul shivers


…by Betty Sanders Garner (used by permission of the author)


V Thanksgiving


Let all who in leisured ease

Walk these city squares,

Thank those who braved rocks and trees,

The howling wolves and bears.

They met the proud woods in the face,

Those gloomy shades and stern;

Withstood and conquered, and your race

Supplants the pine and fern.


Though plain their lives and rude their dress,

No common folk were they;

Some came for scorn of slavishness

From homelands far away;

And some came here for conscience' sake,

For Empire and the King;

And some for Love a home to make,

Their dear ones here to bring.


A dream, and then a home,

Soon a settlement!

E'er long both the spire and dome

The misty sky indent!

So honoured be they midst your ease,

And give them well their due;

Give thanks to those who crossed the seas,

They made a land for you!


…adapted by LE fromWilliam Douw Lighthall,  born in Hamilton in 1857.   Lighthall published a variety of political essays, poems and stories dealing with conditions in the young nation.