Éala Éarendel (2011)
for SATB choir & piano
While doing research on Anglo-Saxon riddles for my choral work Exeter Riddles, I came across the beautiful lines that make up the text of this piece, Éala Éarendel. The phrase, an advent text, about an angel being sent to earth refers to John the Baptist or possibly Jesus and in that spirit, makes the work an appropriate holiday piece. However, what intrigued me the most was that these lines were the originating point of much of J.R.R. Tolkien's mythology of Middle Earth. Tolkien wrote about these words, "There was something very remote and strange and beautiful behind those words, if I could grasp it, far beyond ancient English." As a Tolkien fan I couldn't resist setting the text after reading that and the piece, as a result of the connection with Tolkien's work, becomes much broader in scope. In Tolkien's mind, language itself (or even a handful of 1,000 year old words) could be bring the brightest light to unimagined worlds.
from Crist by Cynewulf
Éala, Éarendel, engla beorhtast,
ofer middangeard monnum sended
Hail Earendel, brightest of angels,
Above Middle-earth sent unto men.
• For assistance with the pronunciation of the Old English text you may consult one of the following websites (or any other accepted source on Anglo-Saxon pronunciation):