Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Todd McNeal: Music

The Redemption of Captain Ahab

(The Pemulwuy National Male Voice Festival Adult Choir, conducted by Dr Christopher Kiver)
May 2, 2011
Music by Todd McNeal, Words by Mark Svendsen

The Redemption of Captain Ahab was commissioned by Voices of Birralee for the Pemulwuy National Male Voice Festival 2011. It received its first performance at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane, in May 2011, directed by Dr Christopher Kiver, with Justine Favell on piano.

The work is a fantasy ballad starting from the idea that Captain Ahab from Melville's classic novel Moby Dick would not be too happy if he found out about another white whale wandering free. In this case, the white whale is Migaloo, the all-white humpback who travels along the Eastern coast of Australia every year.

The words for The Redemption of Captain Ahab are by Queensland author and poet Mark Svendsen.

With thanks to Voices of Birralee for permission to use the audio and video recording.

Recording by JTV Productions

THE REDEMPTION OF CAPTAIN AHAB

On an ink black, cold, dark-water night
Deep-drown'd sailors lie in silent sleep,
But up from the ocean shining like a dream,
A white whale rises
A white whale rises with the morning light-
Migaloo!

Hast Thou seen the White Whale wand'ring free?
Hast Thou seen the White Whale wand'ring free?
Hast Thou seen the White Whale,
Hast Thou heard the White Whale
Sing his haunting song of the sea?

Captain Ahab hears the white whale's song
He rises up, revenge is in his heart
"Heave away, ye laggards On after Migaloo.
God knows my lonely soul,
God knows my lonely soul will find no rest
'Til He is dead!"

Hast Thou seen the White Whale wand'ring free?
Hast Thou seen the White Whale wand'ring free?
Hast Thou seen the White Whale,
Hast Thou heard the White Whale
Sing his haunting song of the sea?

They bent their backs to the row-locks
Following herds of humpbacks
Northward to Queensland
'Til the spied Migaloo
Drifting in the Coral Sea
As they watched And they wondered
Then the crew began to sing...

We are the crew men
The strong men, the true men
The hard men who've killed us
So many a whale
Speared with the harpoon,
Driving the lance in
'Til her chimney's afire with a blood-red tree
'Til Leviathan drowns in the blood-soaked sea.
But behold the White Whale,
Ocean King, the White Whale I
f we murder him we kill what God has bless'd.

Ahab grabs the harpoon from his mates
"Lily-livered seadogs I shall do the deed myself!"
He raises up his harpoon high...
But the White Whale rises
The White Whale rises in the morning light
He leaps out of the water
And I swear the great fish looks him in the eye..

"Forsaken Ahab, from your vengeance cease.
Forsaken Ahab, let us live in peace."
And a tear trembles down
'Cross the scar on Ahab's cheek.
The spear falls, forgiven, from his hand.
Ooh...his haunting song of the sea
Migaloo.

Words by Mark Svendsen (c) copyright 2011
Music by Todd McNeal (c) copyright 2011

Audio Recording (c) copyright Voices of Birralee 2011