Artwork: Anton Psak

The Next Ocean

Raymond Warren/ Seamus Heaney
A selection of solo and ensemble artists perform three works by the eminent British composer Raymond Warren.

Cat. Number: 020011023 Year of issue: 2011
Duration: 61:41 No. of tracks: 15
Recording date: 25th and 28th March, 2010 Recorded at: The Weston Auditorium, Hatfield


Conducted by Robin Browning.

This magnificent CD combines three pieces of work by composer Raymond Warren with the addition of Nobel Prize winning poetry by Irish poet Seamus Heaney, Poetry by Louis MacNeice, Vocal by accomplished soprano Olivia Robinson and contemporary piano from Philip Mead.  

Album notes:

These are three very different works from three different periods of my composing life, but they do pair up in some ways. The closest two are no doubt the first and the third, interpretations of the work of two great poets from the north of Ireland, where I lived for seventeen years. I knew Seamus Heaney quite well – we were both young lecturers at the Queen’s University of Belfast – and I thought of him then, before his coming to international fame, as essentially a deep-rooted Irish country poet. He didn’t want his poetry to lose its own “music” by being sung, and I was happy with this because, as an outsider to his tradition I felt I could not readily penetrate it with my music so closely. Hence the decision not to set his sequence as song but instead to have the poems read and to bring out their almost ritualistic long term structures with the use of overlaid piano interludes. 

I never met Louis MacNeice, who had left Ulster well before my time there. Unlike Heaney, he was a multi-rooted international figure but his cosmopolitanism was given an intense emotional edge by the memories of his Irish childhood which largely occupy the poems I chose here. I did actually set the first poem while I was living there, on hearing of his death in 1963. At that time it took the form of a small choral In Memoriam. This was re-written some thirty years later as the song to start the cycle. I found MacNeice’s vivid imagery very suggestive of musical gestures and have been surprised that so little of his poetry has been set to music.

Between these two the piano sonata may seem a rather distant neo-classical work. It is linked via the piano of course to the Heaney sequence, though stylistically it is rather closer to the final songs and there is also another connection. Whereas the sequence is essentially circular in structure (for at the end we come back to our starting point for the next season), the sonata is linear, ending with a passacaglia which takes the earlier material into new ritual dance music. The last song of the MacNeice cycle, from which the CD takes its title, has something of the same effect. Its almost obsessive 5/8 rhythm creates a new kind of ritual whose repetitions, I can only hope, will be felt to match the wonderful verbal repetitions of the poem.

Raymond Warren

Raymond Warren was born in 1928 and studied at Cambridge University (1949-52) reading mathematics at first and then changing to music under Boris Ord and Robin Orr: later he studied privately with Michael Tippett (1952-60) and Lennox Berkeley (1958). From 1955-72 he taught at Queen's University, Belfast, where from 1966 he held a personal Chair in composition. For the years 1966-72 he was Resident Composer to the Ulster Orchestra, writing for them a number of orchestral works and also conducting the orchestra in a series of Sunday afternoon concerts of contemporary music. In 1972 he was appointed professor of music at the University of Bristol, a post from which he retired in 1994. 
His compositions cover a wide range of genres. Of his six operas three are large-scale church works for children, and two of the oratorios are passion settings. Orchestral music includes three symphonies, a violin concerto written for Erich Gruenberg, the suite Wexford Bells, and for the theatre, Ballet Shoes, composed for the London Children’s Ballet. Two of the string quartets were written for the Dartington String Quartet and the second of the wind quintets, Picasso Pictures was nominated for a British Academy award in 2006. Among many vocal works are two song cycles commissioned by and for Peter Pears and the choral Golden Rings and The Death of Orpheus. 

Some personal thoughts
In musical terms my life has come at a very exhilarating time. To take just the earlier formative period, Britten and Tippett were the rising new stars in my teenage years (I saw the first production of Peter Grimes) and then came the gradual national discovery of the second Viennese school – I remember being bowled over by the first British performance since the war of Pierrot Lunaire in London in 1952. Darmstadt didn’t interest me much apart from what Messiaen did there, but the new Polish composers in the sixties made a great impact, especially Lutoslawski. Perhaps even greater have been the social and political upheavals. Beginning with wartime experiences as a child, I have lived through a fascinating period of change. There have been times when I have felt the urge to react to these things overtly in music as in the violence of the second symphony, written during the Ulster troubles, and its comic counterpart, Processions overture, the harsh glitter of war and its tragedy in Madrigals in Time of War, and an international crisis in Spring 1948. But most of my music is “pure” and little that is programmatic can be said in words about it. When the starting point has been extra-musical it has usually been concerned with timeless issues such as love, hope, childhood, old age, suffering, visionary spirituality or just plain comedy, all no doubt approached with a contemporary sensibility. 

Philip Mead studied at the Royal Academy of Music and became an international prize winner in contemporary music. He has been actively involved in contemporary music for many years and has performed throughout the world. He has worked closely with such composers as Stockhausen, Reich and Tippett and commissioned many new works. He has been at the forefront of developing a repertoire for piano and electronics working with all the major electronic composers including Jonathan Harvey, Denis Smalley, Javier Alvarez, Horacio Vaggione, Daniel Teruggi, Simon Emmerson and Stephen Montague. He has performed this repertoire extensively particularly in the group Montague/Mead Piano Plus, and with the Groupe de Recherches Musicales in Paris. Many of these works are available on CD. Since 1997 Philip Mead has also been researching the possibilities of combining the piano with various brass and percussion ensembles, and has commissioned work from such composers as Diana Burrell, Nicholas Sackman and Geoffrey Poole. These works feature on a recent CD issued by NMC.
Amongst the piano classics of the Twentieth Century, the music of radical American composers has always had a central place in Philip Mead’s repertoire. He has performed the music of Charles Ives extensively in Britain and America and in 2001 Metier released a double CD of Ives’ complete solo piano music which became Observer CD of the week. This was followed by a double CD of the complete solo piano works of George Crumb on Metier and the complete solo repertoire of Stephen Montague on NMC. Future plans include a project to record the entire piano music of Henry Cowell. In 1996 Philip Mead made his debut at New York’s Carnegie Hall performing the Henry Cowell Piano Concerto with the American Symphony Orchestra during the Bard Festival, repeated at the Barbican in January 2004 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Philip Mead is Founder and Artistic Director of the British Contemporary Piano Competition, a past director of the Society for the Promotion of New Music, and has recently been appointed a research fellow at the University of Hertfordshire.

Olivia Robinson, originally from Salisbury, has sung with various consorts, ensembles and choirs, including the Sixteen, Polyphony and The English Consort under Trevor Pinnock, performing all over the UK and Europe. She has been a full-time member of the BBC Singers since 2003 where she has worked with conductors including Pierre Boulez, Gianandrea Noseda and Richard Hickox, performing a huge breadth of repertoire ranging from Byrd and Tallis to new commissions by Sir Harrison Birtwistle and James MacMillan to name two. Highlights of her solo work for the BBC include singing the role of Procula, Pilate's wife, in the world premiere performance and broadcast of Francis Grier's The Passion of Jesus of Nazareth, and Mozart's C Minor Mass live on Radio 3 and across the European Broadcasting Union. She has also recently recorded Judith Bingham's Irish Tenebrae on CD.

Outside the BBC, her solo repertoire includes Handel's Messiah and Dixit Dominus and various oratorios; Bach's B Minor Mass, St John Passion, Magnificat and Christmas Oratorio; Haydn's Creation and The Seasons; Mozart's Solemn Vespers, Requiem and C Minor Mass; Mendelssohn's Elijah; Szymanowski's Stabat Mater and Verdi's Requiem. 

Robin Browning enjoys a busy conducting career in the UK, where he is music director of many orchestras including de Havilland Philharmonic, resident at the University of Hertfordshire. He has toured extensively throughout Europe, in addition to performing in Canada and China. Since making his debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s Barbican Centre, which was broadcast on Classic fm, he has conducted the Hallé Orchestra, Northern Sinfonia, Orchestra of Opera North, St Petersburg Festival Orchestra and Ensemble Intercontemporain. Robin studied at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, with Ilya Musin and Myung-Whun Chung. He furthered his training in the USA with Joseph Gifford, in Estonia with both Neeme Järvi and Paavo Järvi, and privately with Sir Charles Mackerras. He is increasingly in demand as a conducting teacher, including running the conductors course at the University of Southampton. Visit

Seamus Heaney was born and educated in Northern Ireland. In the 1960s he worked first as a teacher and eventually at Queen’s University, Belfast, before moving with his family in 1972 to the Irish Republic. After some years as a freelance, he resumed work as a college lecturer. Then, in1982, he began his long association with Harvard University, coming and going for a term each year until 1997, when he resigned the Boylston Professorship and began a much looser affiliation as Ralph Waldo Emerson Poet in Residence. Between 1989 and 1994, Heaney also served as Professor of Poetry at Oxford. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. 

Since the publication of Death of a Naturalist in 1966, Heaney has produced books of poetry, criticism and translation. Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996 appeared in 1998 and Finders Keepers, his selected prose, in 2002. Other recent publications include Beowulf, A New Verse Translation (1998), Electric Light (2001), District and Circle (2006) and Human Chain (2010). His version of Sophocles’ Antigone, entitled The Burial at Thebes was commissioned by the Abbey Theatre in 2004 as part of their centenary celebrations and Stepping Stones, a book length collection of interviews with him by the poet Dennis O’Driscoll, appeared in 2008.

It was during his period at Queen’s University that Seamus Heaney met Raymond Warren who was then Professor of Music; both of them were involved in the annual university arts festival and contributors to the creative ferment that occurred in Belfast in the mid to late 1960s. So when the poet’s A Lough Neagh Sequence appeared in 1967, their collaboration was prompt and rewarding for each of them.

Louis MacNeice was born on September 12, 1907, in Belfast, Ireland. He attended Oxford, where he majored in classics and philosophy. In 1930, he married Giovanna Ezra and accepted a post as classics lecturer at the University of Birmingham, a position he held until 1936, when he went on to teach Greek at Bedford College for Women, University of London. In 1941, he joined the British Broadcasting Company as a staff writer and producer. Like many modern English poets, MacNeice found an audience for his work through British radio. Some of his best-known plays, including Christopher Columbus (1944), and The Dark Tower (1946), were originally written for radio and later published. Early in his career, MacNeice was identified with a group of politically committed poets whose work appeared in Michael Roberts's anthology New Signatures. MacNeice drew many of the texts for Modern Poetry: 'A Personal Essay from the New Signature poets'. Modern Poetry was MacNeice's plea for an "impure" poetry expressive of the poet's immediate interests and his sense of the natural and the social world. Despite his association with young British poets Stephen Spender, W. H. Auden, writer Christopher Isherwood, and other left-wing poets, MacNeice was as mistrustful of political programs as he was of philosophical systems. He was never a member of the Communist Party or any other political groups, and he was quite candid about the ambiguities of his political attitudes. "My sympathies are Left," he wrote. "But not in my heart or my guts." 

Although he chose to live the majority of his adult life in London, MacNeice frequently returned to the landscapes of his childhood, and he took great pride in his Irish heritage. His poetry is characterized by its familiar, sometimes humorous tone and its integration of contemporary ideas and images. In addition to his poetry and radio dramas, MacNeice also wrote the verse translation The Agamemnon of Aeschylus (1936), translated Goethe's Faust (1951), and collaborated with Auden on the travelogue Letters from Iceland (1937). 

In August of 1963, MacNeice, on location with a BBC team, insisted on going down into a mineshaft to check on sound effects. He caught a chill that was not diagnosed as pneumonia until he was fatally ill. He died on September 3, 1963, just before the publication of his last book of poems, The Burning Perch. He was 55 years old. 


University Chamber Orchestra
Leader : Richard Aylwin
Conductor : Robin Browning

The University Chamber Orchestra was founded by Howard Burrell in 1972 and here releases its first CD. Together with its smaller University Chamber Ensemble, University Brass Ensemble and University Chorale, it has given many concerts in the University of Hertfordshire, in St Albans and farther afield in the county. Made up of professional musicians and singers these forces provide an additional layer of music-making for the University and create opportunities for performances of contemporary and more unusual repertoire.
The Chamber Ensemble is featured on The Music of John Hopkins (UHR 020011012), the Brass Ensemble on Fanfares, Fancies and Fugues (UHR 020011017) and the Chorale on Venite adoremus (UHR 0200011024) which also features the Brass Ensemble.

A Lough Neagh Sequence (1970) Raymond Warren
for the fishermen

Music for the poem by Seamus Heaney
Piano – Phillip Mead

Composer's Note:

Seamus Heaney’s A Lough Neagh Sequence is a set of seven poems tracing the remarkable life cycle of the eel from the Sargasso Sea to the Irish lake. It was published in the collection “Door into the Dark” in 1969 a few years before I left Ireland. The idea came from Heaney who had seen some Yeats plays at the Belfast Lyric Theatre for which I had written incidental music. Later in 1971 we collaborated with Helen Lewis of the Belfast Modern Dance Group to make it into a ballet.

1.Up the Shore
2.Beyond Sargasso
6.The Return

1. Up The Shore

The lough will claim a victim every year.
It has virtue that hardens wood to stone.
There is a town sunk beneath its water.
It is the scar left by the Isle of Man.

At Toomebridge where it sluices towards the sea
They've set new gates and tanks against the flow.
From time to time they break the eels' journey
And lift five hundred stone in one go.

But up the shore in Antrim and Tyrone
There is a sense of fair play in the game.
The fishermen confront them one by one
And sail miles out, and never learn to swim.

'We'll be quicker going down', they say-
And when you argue there are no storms here,
That one hour floating's sure to land them safely-
'The lough will claim a victim every year.'

2. Beyond Sargasso

A gland agitating
mud two hundred miles in-
land, a scale of water
on water working up
estuaries, he drifted
into motion half-way
across the Atlantic,
sure as the satellite's 
insinuating pull
in the ocean, as true
to his orbit.

ebb, current, rock, rapids
a muscled icicle 
that melts itself longer
and fatter, he buries
his arrival beyond 
light and tidal water,
investing silt and sand 
with a sleek root. By day 
only the drainmaker's 
spade or the mud paddler 
can make him abort. Dark 
delivers him hungering 
down each undulation.

3. Bait

Lamps dawdle in the field at midnight.
Three men follow their nose in the grass
The lamps' beam their prow and compass.

The bucket's handle better not clatter now:
Silence and curious light gather bait.
Nab him, but wait

For the first shrinking, tacky on the thumb.
Let him re-settle backwards in his tunnel.
Then draw steady and he'll come.

Among the millions whorling their mud coronas
Under dewlapped leaf and bowed blades
A few are bound to be rustled in these night raids,

Innocent ventilators of the ground
Making the globe a perfect fit,
A few are bound to be cheated of it

When lamps dawdle i the field at midnight,
When fishers need a garland for the bay
And have him, where he needs to come, out of the clay.

4. Setting

A line goes out of sight and out of mind
Down to the soft bottom of silt and sand
Past the indifferent skill of the hunting hand.

A bouquet of small hooks coiled in the stern
Is being paid out, back to its true form,
Until the bouquet's hidden in the worm.

The boat rides forward where the line slants back.
The oars in their locks go round and round.
The eel describes his arcs without a sound.

the gulls fly and umbrella overhead,
Treading air as soon as the line runs out,
Responsive acolytes above the boat.

Not sensible of any kyrie,
The fishers, who don't know and never try,
Pursue the work in hand as destiny.

They clear the bucket of the last chopped worms,
Pitching them high, good riddance, earthy shower.
The gulls encompass them before the water.

5. Lifting

they're busy in a high boat
That stalks towards Antrim, the power cut.
The line's a filament of smut

Drawn hand over fist
Where every three yards a hook's missed
Or taken (and the smut thickens, wrist-

Thick, a flail
Lashed into a barrel
With one swing). Each eel

Comes aboard to this welcome:
The hook left in gill or gum,
It's slapped into the barrel numb

But knits itself, four-ply,
With the furling, slippy
Haul, a knot of back and pewter belly

That stays continuously one
For each catch they fling in
Is sucked home like lubrication.

And wakes are enwound as the catch
On the morning water: which
Boat was which?

And when did this begin?
This morning, last year, when the lough first spawned?
The crews will answer, 'Once the season's in.'

6. The Return

In ponds, drains, dead canals
she turns her head back,
older now, following
whim deliberately
till she's at sea in the grass
and damned if she'll turn so
it's new trenches, sunk pipes,
swamps, running streams, the lough
the river. Her stomach
shrunk, she exhilarates
in mid-water. Its throbbing
is speed through days and weeks.

Who knows now if she knows
her depth or direction;
she's passed Malin and
Tory, silent, wakeless,
a wisp, a wick that is 
its own taper and light
through the weltering dark.
Where she's lost once she lays
ten thousand feet down in 
her origins. The current
carries slicks of orphaned spawn.

7. Vision

Unless his hair was fine-combed
The lice, they said, would gang up
Into a mealy rope
And drag him, small, dirty, doomed

Down to the water. He was
Cautious then in riverbank
Fields. Thick as a birch trunk
That cable flexed in the grass

Every time the wind passed. Years
Later in the same fields
He stood at night when eels
Moved through the grass like hatched fears

Towards the water. To stand
In one place as the field flowed
Past, a jellied road,
To watch the eels crossing land

Re-wound his world's live girdle.
Phosphorescent, sinewed slime
Continued at his feet. Time
Confirmed the horrid cable.

Piano Sonata No. 2 (1977) Raymond Warren


Piano – Phillip Mead

Composer Note:

The Sonata was commissioned by the 1977 Cardiff Festival and first performed there by Martin Jones. The first movement, Monody is a single decorated melody, (occasionally proliferating into hetrophony) which gradually fills all the registers of the piano. The following Caprice contrasts scherzo material with slow music, combining at the end. In the third and longest movement, Chaconne, some of the ideas of the earlier music are taken up into the ritual of the slow dance. 

In My Childhood (1998) Raymond Warren
Five songs for Soprano and Orchestra
Poems by Louis MacNeice

Vocal Soloist – Olivia Robinson
UH Chamber Orchestra
Conductor – Robin Browning

Composer Note:

The cycle puts side by side several different approaches to childhood, a recurrent theme in MacNeice's poetry. The first poem and the two scherzos, Nos 2 and 4, are autobiographical, the poet reflecting in colourful language on the joys and pains of his own childhood. The third song, a nocturne in the middle of the cycle and helping to define a certain overall symmetry, muses and the as yet unrevealed potential character of a sleeping child. The last poem explores the idea that a return to the attitudes of childhood can have a redeeming effect on adulthood. 
Musically the whole work grows from the material at the very opening, a set of three pitches with their echoed inversion.

1. In My Childhood
2. Children's Games
3. Cradle Song for Miriam
4. Notes for a Biography
5. Apple Blossom


In my childhood trees were green
And there was plenty to be seen.

Come back early or never come.

My father made the walls resound,
He wore his collar the wrong way round.

Come back early or never come.

My mother wore a yellow dress;
Gently, gently, gentleness.

Come back early or never come.

When I was five the black dreams came;
Nothing after was quite the same

Come back early or never come.

The dark was talking to the dead;
The lamp was dark beside my bed.

Come back early or never come.

When I woke they did not care;
Nobody, nobody was there.

Come back early or never come.

When my silent terror cried,
Nobody, nobody replied.

Come back early or never come.

I got up; the chilly sun
Saw me walk away alone.

Come back early or never come.


Touch me not forget me not, touch me forget me,
Throw salt over your shoulder when you walk under a ladder,
Fly away Peter, they are waiting in the Vatican,
Come back Paul, to your Macedonian runaround.

Hop scotch and somersault, ring a ring of raspberries.
Who shall we send to fetch her away? Touch wood and turn again.
I’m the king of the barbican, come down you dirty charlatan.
When you see a magpie put salt upon her tail.

He knows I know you know catchum
Nigger by his whatnot round and round the launching site.
Boar’s tusks and phonies say the bells of Saint Adonis,
Up Guards and Jenkins and all fall down.

The grand old Duke of York is just about to turn about,
Keep your fingers crossed when Tom Tiddler’s ground is over you,
I’ll beat you in a canter say the bells of Atalanta,
Touch me not forget me, touch me forget me not.


The clock’s untiring fingers wind the wool of darkness
And we all lie alone, having long outgrown our cradles
(Sleep, sleep Miriam)
And the flames like faded ladies….simper
And all is troubledness.

Soft the wool, dark the wool
Is gathered slowly, wholly up
Into a ball, all of it.

And yet in the back of the mind, lulled all else,
There is something unsleeping, un-tamperable-with,
Something that whines and scampers
And like the ladies in the grate will not sleep nor forget itself,
Clawing at the wool like a kitten.

Sleep, sleep, Miriam.
And as for this animal of your
He must be cradled also….
That he may not philander with the flames before they die…….

The clock’s fingers wind, wind the wool of Lethe,
(Sleep, sleep, Miriam)
It glides across the floor drawn by hidden fingers
And the beast droops his head
And the fire…..its flounces
And winks a final ogle out of the fading embers
But no one pays attention;

This is too much, the flames say, insulted,
We who were once the world’s beauties and now
No one pays attention
No one remembers us.


An oranges (sweet) and lemons (bitter) childhood:
Voices of duty or magic; the first cuckoo;
The longing back and aspiring forward; the double
Feeling that all is new and that all has happened before.

For example, there was a shore
(Oh catnap-happy, catacomb-haunted childhood)
Where head-down first he brooded on pebble and limpet,
Then raised his head to gulp the world entire-

Bumpers of foam and fire,
The horizon carving his guts like a Turkish sword
(Oh gay fire-walking, sad sword-swallowing childhood)
Leaving an ache in his guts and a troubled night.

Call it despair or delight
(Or both), it went. The ringers in St. Clement’s
Rang their bells down and under the arch of hands
He escaped, or was carried away, from those ups and downs of childhood.


The first blossom was the best blossom
For the child who had never seen an orchard;
For the youth whom whisky had led astray
The morning after was the first day.

The first ocean was the best ocean
For the child from streets of doubt and litter;
For the youth for whom the skies unfurled
His first love was his first world.

The first apple was the best apple
For Adam before he heard the sentence;
When the flaming sword endorsed the Fall
The trees were his to plant for all.

But the first verdict seemed the worst verdict
When Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden;
Yet when the bitter gates clanged to
The sky beyond was just as blue.

For the next ocean is the first ocean
And the last ocean is the first ocean
And, however often the sun may rise,
A new thing dawns upon our eyes.

For the last blossom is the first blossom
And the first blossom is the best blossom
And when from Eden we take our way
The morning after is the first day.

Poems by Louis MacNeice
Louis MacNeice Collected Poems
Faber and Faber 1979
(The poems are used with the permission of David Higham Associates)

Track Listing:

Track Title Duration Composer

1 A Lough Neagh Sequence: I. Up The Shore 3:50 R. Warren/ Seamus Heaney
2 A Lough Neagh Sequence: II. Beyond Sargasso 2:29 R. Warren/ Seamus Heaney
3 A Lough Neagh Sequence: III. Bait 2:37 R. Warren/ Seamus Heaney
4 A Lough Neagh Sequence: IV. Setting 2:44 R. Warren/ Seamus Heaney
5 A Lough Neagh Sequence: V. Lifting 2:17 R. Warren/ Seamus Heaney
6 A Lough Neagh Sequence: VI. The Return 2:43 R. Warren/ Seamus Heaney
7 A Lough Neagh Sequence: VII. Vision 3:26 R. Warren/ Seamus Heaney
8 Piano Sonata No.2: I. Monody 5:45 Raymond Warren
9 Piano Sonata No.2: II. Caprice 4:03 Raymond Warren
10 Piano Sonata No.2: III. Chaconne 7:24 Raymond Warren
11 In My Childhood: I. In My Childhood 5:34 Raymond Warren
12 In My Childhood: II. Children's Games 2:48 Raymond Warren
13 In My Childhood: III. Cradle Song for Miriam 8:58 Raymond Warren
14 In My Childhood: IV. Notes for a Biography 3:37 Raymond Warren
15 In My Childhood: V. Apple Blossom 6:46 Raymond Warren

Album Contributors:

Conductor - Robin Browning
Producer - Howard Burrell
Chief Engineer - Daniel Halford
Engineer - Adrian Walker
Assistant - Tristan Bruce
Administration - UHArts
Publication Manager - Tess Kullander
Artwork - Anton Psak
Design - Dominic Halford