Novello, 1935


*Ann Murray,
English Chamber Orch,

(1987, CD )

Ulster Orch., Handley (1989, CD )

(*includes vocal coda)



Further Writing



Vocal coda





Lonely Waters (1924/31?)


Of Moeran's shorter pieces for orchestra it is Lonely Waters which gets the rave reviews. Warlock described it as "a very attractive piece for small orchestra", Geoffrey Self calls it "a near-perfect miniature" and for Lionel Hill it was the spur to his first making contact with Moeran and later became the title of his book describing his friendship with the composer. Hill wrote "In retrospect it seems poetically right that Jack should have met his death in 'some lonely waters'. This beautiful work was the cause of our friendship, and somehow his end was foreshadowed in its dying cadence. Of all his output this is the one work which I can only occasionally bear to hear."

Lonely Waters has proved difficult to tie to any particular date - thought Warlock refers to it in 1924 it has also been dated at 1930-31 by Hubert Foss in his "Compositions of E J Moeran" of 1948. Geoffrey Self seems to plump for the work being substantially revised at the later point from an earlier work, citing the harmonic and structural treatments as being too advanced for Moeran's earlier style.

The piece lasts for around nine and a half minutes, and is built around a Norfolk folk song already included in the 1923 collection Six Folksongs from Norfolk. Moeran wrote two alternative endings for Lonely Waters, though made clear his preference for the solo voice rather than cor anglais. Alas all too frequently it seems the latter is easier to get hold of, though it is possible to find a recording with Ann Murray singing the unaccompanied lines towards the end of the piece heard in the audio clip on this website:

So I'll go down to some lonely waters
Go down where no-one shall me find
Where the pretty little birds do change their voices
And every moment blow blustering wild

The song originated in Moeran's visits to remote Norfolk pubs collecting and notating the songs still sung there in what was already a dying oral tradition. With this in mind Moeran stated " should be understood that the singer need not be a professional one...anybody with a clear and natural manner of singing may sing the verse."

For Self the music is in some ways reminiscent of the style of Vaughan Williams' Pastoral Symphony of 1922. It certainly has an especially pastoral, romantic, almost tragic air to it's nostalgic melancholy. It is easy to understand how hearing the music could bring a tear to the eye of Lionel Hill as he recalled the loss of his good friend.

Lonely Waters was published alongside Wythorne's Shadow as Two Pieces for Small Orchestra, despite having very little in common, either musically or in orchestral requirements. One may wonder whether the association actually does each individual work a disservice.



"somehow his end was foreshadowed in its dying cadence"

©2001 The Worldwide Moeran Database