Ghostlight reprises Joby Talbot's Path of Miracles in Manhattan
by Elliott Cairns for Vocal Area Network
Posted June 1, 2022

Ghostlight: Path of Miracles British composer Joby Talbot’s Path of Miracles is an ambitious a cappella journey along the Camino de Santiago, the famous pilgrimage route across northern Spain to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Premiered by Tenebrae in 2005, its four movements—Roncesvalles, Burgos, León and Santiago—evoke four of the main posts along the Camino, tracing the experiences of the pilgrims from beginning to end. Ghostlight first performed this piece at Christ's Church in Rye in March, and we are excited to bring this memorable concert to the Church of Notre Dame, 405 West 114th Street in Manhattan on Friday, June 3, 2022 at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $30 and are available at ghostlightchorus.com/concerts.

Talbot’s music takes both vocalists and audience on an emotional, transformative, hour-long pilgrimage in Greek, Latin, Spanish, Basque, Galician, French, German and English. The piece at times breaks the choir into seventeen individual parts, moves the singers through the performance space, and demands extraordinary technique in terms of range, volume and rhythm.

Joby Talbot was born in London in 1971. In addition to Path of Miracles, Talbot’s diverse catalog includes the narrative ballets Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (2011) and The Winter's Tale (2014), both collaborations with choreographer Christopher Wheeldon for The Royal Ballet and National Ballet of Canada; Everest (2015), a one-act opera commissioned by the Dallas Opera that follows three of the climbers involved in the 1996 Mount Everest disaster; and the score for the hugely popular animated feature Sing (2016). Future works include a cantata commissioned by Independent Opera for Britten Sinfonia and Britten Sinfonia Voices; a second opera for Dallas; and a third narrative ballet with Christopher Wheeldon.

(Drawn from the text)
Herr Santiagu
Grot Sanctiagu
Eultreya esuseya
Deius aia nos.
Now about that time, Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James, the brother of John, with the sword.
After King Herod killed him in Jerusalem, the disciples brought the body by sea to Galicia.
At night the hermit Pelayo, at prayer and alone, saw in the heavens a ring of bright stars shining like beacons over the plain.
For this was the time, given to Spain, for St. James to be found after eight hundred years in Compostela, by the field of stars.
The apostles in the Puerta Alta have seen a thousand wonders; the stone floor is worn with tears, with ecstasies and lamentations.
We beat our hands against the walls of heaven and are not heard. We pray for miracles and are given stories; bread, and are given stones. We write our sins on parchment to cast upon his shrine in hope they will burn.
We know that the world is a lesson as the carved apostles in the Puerta Alta dividing the damned and the saved are a lesson. We pray the watching saints will help us learn.
Pray for us, James, from the end of the earth I cry to you.
The sun that shines within me is my joy, and God is my guide.
God knows we have walked in Jakobsland: each day the same road, each day the same sun.
Here is a miracle.
That we are here is a miracle.
The road climbs through changing land. Towns are shadows the road leaves behind.
Then, a morning: the road climbs before the longed-for final descent to Santiago.
At the Western edge of the world, we pray for our sins to fall from us as chains from the limbs of penitents.
We have walked out of the lives we had and will return to nothing, if we live, changed by the journey, face and soul alike.

Elliott Cairns sings with and writes program notes for Ghostlight.