OUR SOLSTICE NIGHT
Commissioned by The Sunday Boys
The Sunday Boys’ annual 'A Very Queer Christmas' returned in December 2022 with more of their unique brand of choral singing, storytelling and festive reflection.
We return to one of the oldest stories of this season, that of light conquering dark, but in a queer twist we ask you to consider yourselves in that darkness and what possibilities are seeded within.
Throughout ‘Our Solstice Night’ audiences encountered six new pieces of writing by Mark Croasdale, each offering a new perspective through this festive season. Inspired by discussions with The Sunday Boys choir and influenced by the concert repertoire, these texts encourage us to reflect on the experience of the outsider and the misunderstood.
Heavily influenced by both the nature around us and the nature of human experience, the ‘Our Solstice Night’ texts invite you to reconsider the season and embrace the night, told through the eyes of darkness themselves.
A story of longing and nostalgia, of contemplation and discovery, of surrender, offering and celebration.
Read the texts below.
The Sunday Boys are an LGBTQ+ low voiced choir based in the heart of Manchester. Formed in 2016 by Artistic Director Michael Betteridge, the choir has performed at prestigious gigs in the city and beyond and recently won 3 Making Music awards and was shortlisted for the BBC Radio Manchester Make a Difference Awards.
AM I NOT BEAUTIFUL
What can I give you?
As Earth’s breath ebbs and flows?
A cooling touch in winter,
As the sun drops far below.
How do I greet you,
Though you turn your face away?
With a restful, calming dimming,
Of the busy bustling day.
Why do you closed your curtains to my dark,
When I strive to embrace you?
Do you not imagine me a lonely creature,
Who craves touch too?
You paint my mubble-fubble picture,
Gloomy, sad and low,
But under my dark covers
There’s a mischief all its own.
A candle does not glow as bright,
In the insistent sun of summer.
A star can not the night sky light,
Unless the sun moves from her.
And if, as you may wish, I had not come?
If you drunk deep the never-ending summer sun?
Well, you may soon get sick, if the light did not sleep.
The ground may scorch and flowers may weep,
For the loss of winter’s rest.
For all new life begins as seeds,
In my honey darkness.
What of the Robins in my winter, whose hearts search for their mate.
Would you not miss their sultry songs, if my darkness was waylaid?
And as the mountain hare turns white, to match the glittering snow,
Do you not think of their plight, should sun’s light never go?
Think on the magic murmurations as the sky-starlings roam;
Would you not miss their swooping dances, should winter waining not bring them home?
I love to see the fox, search through scent trails for their kin.
To feel the icy Earth breathe, as the mist drawers in,
And smell the trees exhale as they shed their leafy skin.
To watch the slowing of the cycle, and hear the silent night sweep in.
Am I not beautiful?
Then why do you closed your curtains to my embrace?
Please don’t pull away.
Let me sing my song for you,
On this, my solstice day.
A divided creature is Time’s own clock,
Pushing forward and yet longing to stop.
Wishing its hands refused the race,
The never ending hurried pace,
It rues the cogs behind its face,
For so diligently turning.
It loathes its own insistent Tik and dreads its booming Tok.
The always moving, never pausing,
Persistent, lonely clock.
I want to opt out.
I can not keep pace.
This world has grown short tempered with me,
My long nights fight against its hungry,
I feel you grappling me, an erratic three way wrestle,
Me, yourselves and time.
As if everything is syncopated, off-beat against the heart,
In dissonance and unreachable, we can not seem to settle in my dark.
Time wants to look back, it drives itself mad with this stubborn striving on,
No moments rest, instead compressed, this dreaded march along.
Will you crave the same aspiration?
For just a moments… hesitation.
A pause, a break, a sweet sedation,
In which we can share,
A simple breath on cold air.
Stop the clocks!
Strike the dials!
Let ourselves break awhile,
And steal the days for ourselves alone.
Dark is defined in absence of, but I am bountiful,
Exist in me.
Not blackness, deep blue,
Purples and maroons.
Cinnamons and obsidians.
No 1 path within me,
All ways open and free, to explore.
Whilst I can not stop sands running through, or the oscillating quartz,
This is a promise I make to you.
To slow your quickened, eager pace, to a tranquil, wizen waltz.
To give us time inside ourselves,
Before the coming of the bells,
Which wake us from our thoughts.
And whilst harmony is not always greeting,
Though some chords are off-set and fleeting,
You can find something new in listening.
Before our moment passes by.
ON THE BACKS OF BLUE WHALES
Long ago, at summer’s dawn,
Upon the longest day.
I was at their bedside,
When light, was bourne away.
Mourning for their sleep to come,
As I was born again.
And now we gather in my night,
To welcome back their warming light,
Who will mourn me?
And my gift of quiet-time.
Where I will hug you tenderly,
In my blanket arms of violet, teal and grey.
And though you may try to pull away,
I can’t help but cling, guiltily,
Craving your company,
Wishing you won’t go too soon,
Rather, bare our moth instinct and bathe together ‘neath the moon.
Where do I belong if not with you?
Belonging only to myself is too, lonely.
Will you brave this?
Take my hand and walk in my darkness?
I know my shadows are not always easy.
As winter comes determinedly to shut the sun away,
The uncertainty inside ourselves can, emboldened, seek to stay.
And the home that sits in each of us, can feel like it’s not our place,
Strange and unfamiliar fractures, cracking through the space.
And from those cracks the rain comes through,
And flooding now, oceans unwanted.
A secret storm that no one sees,
A turbulent tide of raging seas,
And our home, desolate, yet haunted.
For some the boats and oars are made, and simply glide atop the waves.
For many still only arms to swim, and tired, find themselves sinking,
Deep down through giant pools where great blue, blue whales threaten to swallow.
By itself can not always help, by forcing blue to scarper,
Into the never-ending, still descending, raging, wrestling darker.
For low they lurk there patiently, forgotten, unassuming,
Until the time the sun goes down and they, let out, now all-consuming.
But though our home is unfamiliar,
And threatened by this storm.
With just a little faith in me,
My darkness can transform.
No matter how hostile,
Things may seem,
In this darkness,
We can dream.
And sunken blues and monstrous things are soon, in dreaming, gifted wings.
And now rising ‘cross skies on blue whales transformed,
Ill confronted and re-formed,
We’ll find ourselves begin to feel,
And slowly, gently, perhaps we’ll heal.
For no matter how hostile,
Things may seem,
We can dream.
BROADEN ME HEARTILY
Blow your horns and pound your drums,
Shake the bells from their slumberdum.
Bash your cymbals, beat your gongs,
Wake this slothful Earth with song, for I have arrived,
And with joyful chimes,
We herald, the birth of lighter times.
You can not know how I’ve missed you so,
And nothing sets my heart aglow,
Like seeing your faces beaming,
Crystalline in my light bestowed.
In the spirit of solstice and all that it brings,
We’ll share in the promise of upcoming spring.
Now broaden me heartily with pies and sweet things,
With well wishes wrapped in paper and string.
With bellies rotund and thoroughly fed,
On stuffing and gravy and sauce made of bread.
With frosted cakes and flaming puds,
With crackling goose and roasted spuds.
With canapés and vol-au-vens,
With hungry eyes and greedy tongues.
With tables laid bursting, I’ll pull up a chair,
Wearing loud, clashing, over-sized, ugly knitwear,
And stealthily, cautiously I might yet dare,
To break Brussel sprout winds, that toot, on the air.
With warm woollen mittens and hats and with scarves,
With slippers and stockings on feet and on hearths.
With blacken coal eyes and a sweet carrot nose,
With Boreas air tickling wriggling toes.
With crackers that bang, or are laden with brie,
With popcorn in buckets or strewn over trees.
With discos and work-dos and parties galore,
And embarrassing ‘dad moves’ on the dance floor.
With wine, and with gin and with beer and with brandy,
With mistletoe kisses that make you feel… really warm inside.
With peppermint canes and cinnamon toast,
With robins and reindeer on cards through the post.
With bright paper crowns adorning our heads,
With children asleep, all tucked up in beds.
And the sound of their feet as they race down the stairs,
Searching with awe for which package is theirs.
With raisins, sultanas and dried citrus skin,
With more beer and wine and brandy and gin!
With dates and with figs, and with ripe clementines,
With bolshy queer queens in camp pantomimes,
Now the best part of Panto’s the boo! and hiss!
“Oh no it isn’t,
”Oh yes it is!”
With laughter and love and a sense of good cheer,
With more gin and brandy and more wine and beer!
With Wassailing spirits that trek door to door,
Willing the cider to pour and pour more!
With holly and ivy and green winter pine,
And more beer and brandy and more gin and wine!
With Mariah on radio, we’ll sing-a-long too,
Squealing All I want for Christmas is you-oo-oo-oo-oo!
With charades and sardines and romps we’ll have fun,
Bar inevitable quarrels over which team has won.
All happy and gay with cares thrown away,
The days no longer dark and grey.
Let me see the sparkle in your eyes,
For me it can not be too bright.
So broaden me heartily with bells’ tinkling rings,
As we mark the moment my dawn light sings.
With joyful songs and solum prayers,
With humble thoughts and charity shared.
Feel that heart beat a little bit more,
While carolers sing at your open front door.
SMOTHER ME IN DARKNESS PLEASE
Too eager perhaps, I have been,
In ringing bells and drinking keenly,
Drinking, eating, drinking, drinking, my head hurts.
Big and full and round,
Plump with revelry and ohh my goodness me! Won’t you stop those moaning, groaning bells!
Can you not see?!
I am unwell.
Where is my duvet, dark and whole? I want your arms to carry me, for I have indulged.
Oh, how I have indulged.
Let your twilight grace smother me now.
I have tired bones that are quaking and not yet strong enough for prolonged activity,
so I might rest.
And grow full in the cradle of darkness.
Do not be somber, I am returning.
And do not waste this time in yearning.
Doting darkness cuddles, restores,
And though it seems endless, it is only the befores…
… Before the germinating morns,
Before the 5am dawns,
Before the milk flows fast and the days long last,
Before the lush busts out and the pollen bees scout,
Before the air fills rich and warm,
Before the rose blooms again, against its thorn.
So surrender me,
That I might rest.
Just a while, till I’ve convalesced,
In the eclipsed realm of the blessed.
Nurtured by night and all those who’ve passed on,
Their spirits surrounding, away, but not gone.
Each one in peace, renewed and abstracted,
And glimpsed within me as my light is refracted,
Our glittering rainbow kaleidoscope,
Shimmering glistening colours of hope.
Hush and remember those friends and kin,
Who rest with me now as our silent night,
Come little light and sleep for a while.
Let me nourish you in my fertile, bed of fantasy.
Where you can rest ‘till you flourish again, with radiant majesty.
WHEN LIGHT IS SHARED
Before we leave this evening’s dream,
Let me whisper a secret for you to glean,
That my darkness, isn’t all it seems.
As seeds need planting beneath the dark earth,
Before they sprout true and their flowers are birthed,
There is a seed I give now to you,
And a task I ask, that you pursue.
Nourish this spark in the bed of your hearts,
With gentle care and a joyful art,
With enchanted dreams and kindness showered,
And with empathy, this seed empowered.
And sprouting roots, it will take hold,
Blooming, thriving, shinning sparkling gold.
And from deep dark within you, light’s spark is flared,
It’s love growing stronger, as it is shared.