text: Marilyn Bowering (from “To all appearances a Lady”
Duration: c. 4’
Dedication: to Holly Cole
Instrumentation: solo contralto (jazz) voice: bassoon; 2 horns; percussion (one player); strings ( – 1 bass is amplified jazz bass)
First performance: Holly Cole, CBC Radio Orchestra (Gavin Bryars jazz bass), conductor Owen Underhill; Orpheum, Vancouver June 30th 2002


March 1, 2002

Gavin’s Notes:

I have heard it said that a spirit enters (2002)

for low female voice and chamber orchestra

This song, to a text from Marilyn Bowering’s novel “To all appearances a lady” was written for Holly Cole, and is dedicated to her, and was designed specially for the concert at the Vancouver Jazz Festival  and for subsequent recording by CBC Records. It is designed to be the first of a group of three songs, of which the other two are Planet Earth and The Apple. There is a progressive reduction in orchestration with the three songs, especially in the strings. In I have heard it said… there is a full string section; whereas in Planet Earth the violins are removed, and in The Apple we are left with only 6 solo celli and 4 solo basses, and no wind instruments at all. This attention to orchestration comes from a careful observation of the special qualities of Holly Cole’s voice and of the appropriate vehicle for its accompaniment, especially after our having worked together in Winnipeg in 1999. In this song, one of the basses is a jazz bass, and Marilyn Bowering’s evocative text gives the possibility of a brief allusion to the song “I’ll be with you in apple blossom time” – linking it to the more abstract third song, The Apple.

Text of I have heard it said that a spirit enters 

I thought of the rising sun, the singing of birds, and the pale stretch of blue that made up the morning heavens, for I did not like the turn my thoughts had taken, and had learned long ago not to give free rein to them.

But as I looked at the shoreline, which was only a shoreline, and raised my mug of rum to my lips, I heard a cracked voice singing, “I’ll be with you in apple blossom time,” and then a laugh.

I turned my head slowly in the direction of the scent of joss and opium. She was seated on top of the wheelhouse wearing the heavy black cashmere shawl that I had brought back for her from one on my voyages. And she was tapping her pipe out on my teak.

(from: Marilyn Bowering, To All Appearances a Lady, 1990)

Gavin Bryars