Marcel Zidani, pianist, and I performed these pieces at Coughton Court as part of the Arts Programmes in 2012/13. 

John-Paul Gandy aka Sequoia

John-Paul Gandy now known as Sequoia, has performed Helena's music since the 1990s when they met at music college in London. Sequoia is a musical genius and worked as a répétiteur for British opera companies throughout his career, as well as premiering fiendishly difficult piano music for many contemporary music composers, including Joël-François Durand. I am very grateful for his performance and recordings of these concert poetry pieces and hope that you enjoy them for the gift that they are. 


The Festival I - Novice American Watches Novices’ Hurdle

I was expecting them to be lined up, 
for the race to begin with a definite bang, like in the movies.
A heightened moment anticipating gunshot.
I was imagining shocked creatures doused in adrenaline fear, 
bolting like lightning into action.  

But there was no breath-holding pause; 
from somewhere the new racers just spilled onto the track; 
13 runners swirling and milling around, held back by an invisible tape, 
haphazardly waiting to be discharged towards untold fortune and history.  
I joined 67,000 spectators that day wondering who would be released to glory. 

At last, striding legs broke away from the start
as eventful as Beethoven fingers break open silences, striking still keys.
I saw fine performers take off over the first flight of twelve attacca:  
Fifty-two legs swiftly rumbling in straightforward rhythm, anxious to ascend,
to avoid stumbling over themselves before a murmuring audience.

Time stretched like piano strings over a nine foot grand, 
as bookmakers fortunes ran in lucrative harmony.  
Mark Johnson’s commentary, close-ups on big screen and a fast approaching mass
unfolded the story like subjects in Sonata form, galloping over flight after flight, 
expositions of well-bred material bent on stable yard return.

Speed increased, momentum gathered, the pitch of Mark’s voice rose, 
they cleared the twelfth, I stretched to toes, straining my neck in roaring crescendos. 
Tweed hats tossed, silks came clear, whips sped up as stakes soared high, 
tears swelled my throat in bursting excitement, “Come on, Fishers Cross!”  

This is no “fun run,” or dress rehearsal, 
the stakes are high, there’s no reversal. 
No false starts or recapitulations,  
this is the beginning of a new generation.
Two came down outdone by more class, 
unscathed at the sixth in a slipstream of grass. 
Then the roar in the final quarter mile, 
spurred horses on, to the ultimate arrival. 
I’ve learned now about novices bred so fine, 
the subject’s the champion to whom it’s assigned
to take up the trophy because It’s Their Time.  
Wow!  What a winner!

© Helena Cavan, Piano Poetry 2013 For Beethoven “Waldstein” Sonata Movements I & II


The Festival II - Ti m e – s t r e t c  h   i    n     g

[Explanation: This is a poem about a young jockey who fell off her horse just before the finish line of the “Amateur Cheltenham Gold Cup Race” this year called The Foxhunter Chase.  This second movement felt to me like it was in slow motion, so I have attempted to write a poem in slow motion using a post-production film technique called time stretching.]

“Luckless Jane Mangan is fall girl” 

Screaming letters spelled out silent replays in banners of blaring headlines, 

“Foxhunter drama:  Salsify wins after Oscar Delta’s dramatic mishap on the run for home”

journalist triggers clicked faster than horse’s hooves, champagne moments pouring 

“Cheltenham Festival 2013:  Jane Mangan unseated by Oscar Delta with finish line in sight”

through precious lenses onto memory cards labelled 4pm, March the 14th 2013.

 “Cheltenham:  Oscar Delta unseats Jane Mangan in Foxhunter”

 Frozen images dished out to the anxious owner, chilled hopes of the seasoned trainer 

 “Shades of Devon Loch as Jane falls from grace…Misery for Mangan as Oscar Delta unseats teenage rider”

whose daughter could walk off the homestretch, after watching number 18 cross the line

“Despair for Mangan as Salsify racks up double”

in the lead without her, having jinked her in Disney style fate.

“Cheltenham Festival 2013:  Dramatic fall denies teenage amateur Jane Mangan famous victory on Oscar Delta”

The racecards didn’t print the extra allowance Irish jockeys carried in their hearts that day 

“Mangan keen to move on from Oscar Delta Cheltenham saga”

for the rider from Limerick, JT McNamara, whose fall from sporting history the previous day


cost him his movements, for a lifetime.

© Helena Cavan, Piano Poetry 2013 For Beethoven “Waldstein” Sonata Movements I & II


New Conversation, Keeping Our Love On

Here we naked are – 
A melody and an accompaniment.
Volume knobs turn up and down,
Taking turns being foreground. 
Sounds yearning for clarity, brilliance, 
After two decades of dissonant sorrow,
Fully clothed misunderstanding, hid darkly;
Unseen beauty camouflaged by black noise.
Here we are the 20 Years Song and Dance
Poignant, then joy – filled.
Euphoria when two parts powerfully combine, 
First melody, then harmony flowing freely
Abandoning controlled unisons, 
Disremembering Gregorian uniformities
And equalising metres of 50/50,
Love keeping no record of wrongs.

We together are
A compound and moving whole.

© Helena Cavan, Piano Poetry 2013, for Federico Mompou’s “Cancion y Danza No. 6 – Cantabile Espressivo” also inspired by the book, “Keep Your Love On” by Danny Silk.


The Before Moment

I’ve been here before,
In this before moment,

Not knowing what,
But that something will happen, 
I know.

Amniotic waters will burst the sac of status quo,
Change surging as certainly as new moon tides.

I feel
No body can make
This journey with me.

I anticipate.

I think

I dream

I focus

On the moment

© Helena Cavan, 2013 Piano Poetry



Manifestations indicate an

Not yesterday.
Only today! And

Yesterday again today?
Not again. Not repetition, 
imaginably a variation on a theme.
New theme tomorrow’s yesterday.

Writing history with
The not yet

© Helena Cavan, 2012 inspired by Chopin Ballade No. 1 Op. 23


Ballade of a Mother

I circle, pace
Rock my baby
Incite the dreams
That bring the quiet
Mind elsewhere as I sing.

The tender memory
Before deprivations
Takes me away
From an anguished hour
I glide my finger along perfect skin
Shhhhhhhh baby.

© Helena Cavan, 2012 inspired by Claude Debussy Ballade (1890) for piano


Pour le Piano

I Prélude

Franchised atmosphere
cast from two moulds
blurring tones of symmetry.

Teenage tendencies
belonging to patterns, free
of standing out, or leading. 
 “Immortal declaration”
of augmented equalities
the whole tones; restored sound.

II Sarabande

Neither happy nor sad, major nor minor,
into-me-see empty and full:  Just being.  Full of colour.     
Breathing dance “with a serious and slow elegance.”
Functions stripped, shades of meaning.

III Toccata

Toss a rainbow
collect the drips
red poppies, orange marigolds
yellow chrysanthemums
pools of green and purple trees.

Wring out the rainclouds
Pour down astringent light
 streams and shafts of hope

© Helena Cavan, 2012 inspired by Claude Debussy “Pour le Piano” Suite