This song, essentially an aria, is from the Liverpool Oratorio, but over time, it has come to mean more to me. I don’t write too many songs in this classical form; the Liverpool Oratorio was really my first experience with it. But I was really moved that the philharmonic in the city where I grew up would come to me on such an important occasion – their 150th anniversary – and ask me to take part in their celebration. The song begins as a solo for the soprano, which is sung by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa on the record. She’s singing to her baby. ‘The world you’re coming into/Is no easy place to enter’. Physically, for herself and for the baby, just the physical shock of birth is breathtaking. It’s a mystery that any of us survive being born. It’s a traumatic experience.
And that’s not to mention the trauma of life, what we’re thrown into. As almost all of us soon realise, and as we’re finding out again and again with our current history, the world is not an easy place to enter. ‘Every day is haunted/By the echoes of the past/Funny thoughts and wild, wild dreams/Will find their way into your mind’.
You’ll hear that she’s giving a little lesson to her unborn child. ‘The clouds that hang over us/May be full of rain and thunder/But in time they slide away/to find the sun still there/Lazy days and wild, wild flowers/Will bring some joy into your heard’. And then: ‘And I will always love you/I’ll welcome you into this world’. Her child sings that last part with her. It’s a beautiful duet between mother and child.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present
The song recalls, in a way, the Latin motto of my old school, the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys: Non nobis solum, sed toti mundo nati – ‘Not for ourselves alone, but for the whole world were we born’. It’s about the relationship between mother and child, but that child, when grown up, has to go out into the world. And that’s where those lessons really start to come in handy. I still apply lessons from my parents, like Dad’s saying ‘Do it now’. The school’s motto appears elsewhere in the oratorio too, in the words for ‘Non Nobis Solum’ in the opening ‘War’ section.
It struck me just the other day, when I was thinking about this piece, that in some ways it’s a celebration of my mother Mary, who was a midwife. Maybe this is why the song keeps growing on me.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present
‘The World You’re Coming Into’ was released as a single, credited to Kiri Te Kanawa, on 30 September 1991. Its b-side was ‘Tres Conejos’, from Movement II: School.
VII: CRISES. Mary Dee sings to the child inside of her, fretting for its future, Shanty arrives home slightly drunk, short-tempered and demanding dinner. They row over money and Shanty’s feelings of inadequacy. Shanty wounds her by doubting her love and Mary Dee storms out – telling him, as she goes, that she is pregnant. In her blind anger and her hurt, she runs in front of a car and is knocked down. In hospital, a nurse wills her to live as – in delirium – Mary Dee sees the ghosts again. She fights to cling on to the life of her baby as the ghosts try to steal it from her. At her bed, Shanty prays, promising to reform if only Mary Dee and the baby are saved.