The Dream of Gerontius

Jesu, Maria - I am near to death,
And Thou art calling me; I know it now.

The Dream of Gerontius is an 1865 poem by John Henry Newman, otherwise known as Cardinal Newman, who was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI in September 2010.

It is also the name of a large choral work for large orchestra, double chorus with semichorus and, usually, three soloists, written for the 1900 Birmingham Music Festival by Edward Elgar, based on much of Newman's text.

Elgar's work was first performed in Birmingham Town Hall in the UK on 3 October 1900. The performance went badly, and some of the Catholic ideas in Newman's poem caused problems with later performances in Anglican cathedrals, but performances in Germany went well, and a revised text was developed for use at the Three Choirs Festival until 1910.

The name Gerontius is derived from a Greek work meaning 'old man', and depicts an elderly, faithful dying man and his soul's journey through death, also providing a description of the invisible world of Catholic theology:

Go forth upon thy journey, Christian soul! ...
Go, in the name of God
The omnipotent Father, who created thee!
Go, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord ...


A selection of articles about The Dream of Gerontius

Classical music news. March 2024 Newsletter - Watch and listen to our March 2024 one hour video newsletter - Classical Music and Politics

Ensemble. A Favourite with Audiences - Lucas Ball was impressed when Andrew Slater stepped in at short notice to sing in Elgar's 'The Dream of Gerontius'

CD Spotlight. Solace to Listeners - Patrick Maxwell listens to a box set of John Barbirolli's Elgar recordings for Warner Classics. '... a musical artefact which still tells us how Britain's most famous composer really can sound like ...'

CD Spotlight. Incomparable Musical Beauty - Gerald Fenech listens to Elgar's 'The Dream of Gerontius' from Carnegie Hall. '... a precious addition to this acclaimed treasure trove of historic recordings ...'

Ensemble. A Gripping Account - Derby Bach Choir sings Elgar's 'The Dream of Gerontius', and impresses Mike Wheeler

CD Spotlight. Organ transcriptions - Vocal music by Wagner and Elgar, heard by Geoff Pearce. 'Sarah Rose Taylor's voice is warm and creamy.'

Ensemble. Top Class Musicianship - Roderic Dunnett visits Gloucester for the 2010 Three Choirs Festival

Bizarre Perception - Alistair Hinton discusses a recent article on English music by David Hamilton