||||The Outermost House

The Outermost House

Narrator, Soprano solo, SATB chorus with Flute (doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd doubling english horn), 2 horns, piano, percussion (one player), 2 cellos, contrabass

Based on The Outermost House by Henry Beston, which recounts the experience of living for a year in a two-room cottage on the beach in Eastham, Cape Cod. With one exception, the odd-number movements are for the narrator, while the even numbers are usually for the chorus with and without the soprano.

Commissioned by the Chatham Chorale, Margaret Bossi, director, in honor of its founder, Marjorie Bennett Morley.

The Outermost House CD cover The Outermost House: The late Robert Lurtsema narrates these colorful, melodic works. Includes Robert Perera’s The Outermost House performed by Chatham Chorale, Margaret Bossi, conductor, Nancy Armstrong, soprano, Robert J. Lurtsema, narrator and The Canticle of the Sun performed by Chatham Chorale, Margaret Bossi, conductor, Robert J. Lurtsema, narratorand .

Available on:
Albany Records

1. East of America
2. My Western Windows
3. A New Sound on the Beach
4. The Sea Has Many Voices
5. Now Come the Sea Fowl
6. Glorious White Birds
7. A Year Indoors
8. That Multiplicity of Insect Tracks
9. The Wreck of the Montclair
10. Night on the Great Beach
11. It Was Still Night
12. My Year Upon the Beach
13. Hold Out Your Hands Over the Earth

Composed: 1991
Duration: 40:00
Publisher: Music Associates of New York
Catalog Number(s): Vocal Score, MANY 001
Conductor’s score and parts available on rental.
Hold Out Your Hands Over the Earth available separately:
SATB Version, MANY002MX
SSAA Version, MANY 002SA
TTBB Version MANY 002TB


Inspired by the 1927 writing of Henry Beston when he spent a year in virtual solitude at Eastham Beach, “The Outermost House” is a remarkable composition that possesses the musical power to reveal and communicate the many faces of nature when sea, land, sky, wind, and sand collide together in one expansive area. The Saturday night performance was breathtaking, the audience seemingly held spellbound by the unfolding musical drama.

Cape Cod Times 10/16/95

The final piece was “The Outermost House,” for chorus, soprano soloist, narrator and small instrumental ensemble, by Ronald Perera. This lovely work is a setting of the glowing prose of Henry Beston, from his book which recounts the year spent by the author dwelling in a small Cape Cod beach house. The book is a masterpiece of highly evocative nature writing, full of wonderful word pictures and impressions, which Perera beautifully enhanced with his music.

William Warfield, hale and ever-impressive at 81, narrated with dignity and feeling. Alison Chaney’s lovely soprano was a delight. The net effect was that of a masterful tone-painting in praise of one of the world’s very special places.

The Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, 6/3/01

When he is on form, Ronald Perera is among the finest living combiners of words and music alive. The major work here, The Outermost House, is as fine as the best pieces on the CRI disc. Writing on a commission from the Chatham Chorale of Cape Cod, Perera was persuaded to take as his text excerpts from The Outermost House by Henry Beston, which recounts the experience of living for a year in a two-room cottage on the barrier beach in 1925-26. Perera sets his excerptsfor narrator, soprano, chorus, and a small orchestra. With one exception, the odd-number movements are for the narrator (again the very musical Robert J. Lurtsema) while the even numbers are usually for the chorus with and without the soprano (the radiant Nancy Armstrong). As I mentioned in my earlier review, as Perera entered the 90s his idiom was becoming progressively more tonal in orientation. This is also to be found here. The music is simply lovely. Perera’s exquisite ability to set English words is everywhere in evidence as well as his extreme sensitivity to instrumental and vocal color put to service in a text. This is a major addition to the choral repertoire. For choirs able to field the modest additional forces required it should become something of a staple of their repertoire. Albany has put us in their considerable debt by making this marvelous music available to the larger CD-buying public in such a fine performance and recording.

John Story, Fanfare Magazine, May/June 1999 (review of Albany Troy CD 314)

Elegantly crafted, musically appealing, and stirring to the imagination as well as to the heart… Perera has created a musical setting that is more than just worthy of Beston’s masterpiece. It is a work that deserves to be heard often and not just on Cape Cod.

Cape Cod Times 11/18/91

Perera’s music supported graceful vocal writing with warm, embracing sonorities, vibrant rhythms, and (often a distinctive feature of his composition) effectively pictorial use of percussion. The succession of scenes hung together by virtue of returning motives or accompaniment figures which provided clear musical links between sections. The variety in its modes of expression always provided engagement for the ear. Perera had constructed a musical setting perfectly conceived for the diaristic nature of his chosen text, reflecting a barrage of stimuli being interpreted, ordered, and set forth by a single intellect.

Springfield (MA) Union-News 2/18/92

Although wisps of Samuel Barber, Gian Carlo Menotti, and Vincent Persichetti can be heard, Perera’s compositional style is fluent and singular… The last chorus, “Hold Out Your Hands over the Earth,” is a real tour de force. More tonal than the other movements, its universal theme makes it performable as a fine independent work.

Choral Journal 3/94

Perera’s emphasis on the essential elements of melody and harmony — the stuff of which all truly affecting music is made — provides the ideal chamber for the artistic amplification of Beston’s eloquent reflections on nature, compiled during a year spent alone on a Cape Cod beach. While the music is not based strictly on functional principles (standard chord progressions contained within a given key), it is woven persuasively out of the fabric of traditional triadic harmony and unified through the recurrence of seminal motives and key centers. The product is a persuasive marriage of form and content.

Milwaukee Sentinel 2/28/94

The combination of narrative and musical effects make “The Wreck of the Montclair” portion of “Outermost House” a truly powerful experience. Listeners last weekend actually felt the impact of the huge waves and the terror of their fury through Mr. Lurtsema’s dramatic reading of the events that took place in 1927 on a lone stretch of Atlantic beach. We were transported back in time to watch helplessly as the tragedy unfolded. We felt the terror of the sailors caught in an inescapable death trap as the ship was pounded to pieces in the tumultuous surf.

“The Outermost House” remains as a sort of lone witness to both the power and inscrutability of nature. After the tempest, Mr. Perera brought us back to the gentle ebb and flow of life at the beach, and the chorale gave a sublime rendering of the final “Hold Out Your Hands.” We were left with a wonderful sense of acceptance and peace.

The Cape Codder 10/17/95