Songs and other choral pieces with non-religious words.
This setting of a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson was composed as a gift for my wife Jo, for a special birthday. Without Jo's knowledge I assembled a group of friends and acquaintances and secretly recorded the piece so I could present her with the CD on her birthday. This earned me the accolade of 'the most romantic man in Sussex.'
We did not have much time to polish the performance (or indeed tune the piano) but I hope the extract below gives a flavour of the piece.
I will make you brooches and toys for your delight
Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night.
I will make a palace fit for you and me
Of green days in forests and blue days at sea.
Three songs to words by Percy Bysshe Shelley, for tenor solo, SATB chorus and string orchestra.
Shelley was born in Field Place, just outside Warnham, where I live. He was baptised in the parish church, whose vicar was also his first tutor.
I have chosen to set three contrasting lyrics:
Love's Philosophy is Shelley's take on the age-old complaint of the lover whose beloved is a bit reluctant. Everything in nature mixes together, argues the poet, so why not you and I? The chorus sings most of the descriptive words, leaving the tenor soloist to make the more personal pleas.
One of Shelley's best-known poems, Ozymandias is a striking image of fallen pride and the transience of all things. In my setting, most of the words are given to the tenor soloist, but there is an important part for a solo viola, whose mournful tone provides a perfect accompaniment to Shelley's 'lone and level sands'. The famous proclamation written on the fallen statute is given to the tenors and basses of the chorus: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!
The final song is Music, when soft voices die. Muted strings and hushed chorus echo the poem's imagery of remembered music and faded flowers, building up to a shining climax on the words 'love itself ...' before fading away as the soft voices die.