Outfacing the storm : songs from the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition
Outfacing the Storm is a song cycle that tells the story of the spectacular failure-turned-triumph of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Led by Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Expedition was an attempt to trek overland across the whole of the Antarctic continent. Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, launched from England in August of 1914 with twenty-eight men. Within weeks of entering the polar latitudes, ice ensnared the ship. The Endurance remained stuck fast until the spring breakup crushed its hull, and it sank in November of 1915. The crew struck out for civilization, and, after six months and over one thousand miles of travel by foot, by ice-drift, and by lifeboat, they returned home alive. The Expedition’s safe return was heavily credited by its crew to Shackleton himself. A man of intense character, burning passion, and unfailing determination, Shackleton put the needs of his crew ahead of all else. His individual dedication to each member of the voyage was an inspiration to each. Ernest Shackleton, however, was a private man. He hid his own concerns from all except those closest to him. During the Expedition, he feared for the well-being of the crew. In the largest sense, he feared failure. Shackleton was only ever content while at sea. “Sometimes,” he wrote to his wife, “I think I am no good at anything but being away in the wilds… I grow restless and feel any part of youth is slipping away from me and that nothing matters… I feel I am no use to anyone unless I am outfacing the storm in wild lands.” This song cycle tells the tale of the Expedition through Shackleton’s eyes. The cycle is in eleven movements—nine recounting the story, plus a prologue and epilogue. All of the text is Shackleton’s own. The nine middle movements are taken from Shackleton’s memoir about the voyage, South. The prologue and epilogue are taken, respectively, from an interview and the above letter.
Music, Butler School of