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To the evening star- five songs for soprano and piano (2009)

1. Lake Isle of Innisfree –  William Butler Yeats
2. Pied beauty – Gerard Manley Hopkins
3. Mezzo Cammin – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
4. Money, O!  – W H Davies
5. To the evening star – William Blake

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
che la diritta via era smarrita.

Dante’s Divine Comedy begins with words of poetry, quoted above, that describe the psychological experience of finding oneself lost. “In the middle of the journey of our life, I found myself in a dark wood with the right road lost.” The road is lost in a crisis.  As Longfellow puts it in Mezzo Cammin:

Half of my life is gone, and I have let
The years slip from me and have not fulfilled
The aspiration of my youth, to build
Some tower of song with lofty parapet.

So I think the subject of this song cycle is obvious from the choice of diverse but very personal texts that reflect on the creative inner life. The poems move from deep longing in the first song, through whimsy and humour in the second and fourth songs, to fear and regret in the third song, and finally, to a mix of wonder at the world’s beauty and an acceptance of time passing in the final song.  It is the final song that sets a text by William Blake which provides the title of the work.

To the evening star was composed for Margaret Schindler and Stephen Emmerson with the assistance of an Australia Council Composer Fellowship in March –April 2009. The work is about 17 minutes duration.

 

Texts

Lake Isle of Innisfree –  William Butler Yeats
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There mid-night's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.
 
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; 
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

 

Pied beauty – Gerard Manley Hopkins
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced-fold, fa-low, and plough;   
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange; 
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

 

Mezzo Cammin – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Half of my life is gone, and I have let
The years slip from me and have not fulfilled
The aspiration of my youth, to build
Some tower of song with lofty parapet.
Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret
Of restless passions that would not be stilled,
But sorrow, and a care that almost killed,
Kept me from what I may accomplish yet;
Though, half-way up the hill, I see the Past
Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights,--
A city in the twilight dim and vast,
With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights,
And hear above me on the autumnal blast
The cataract of Death far thundering from the heights.

 

Money, O!  – W H Davies
When I had money, money, O!
I knew no joy till I went poor;
For many a false man as a friend
Came knocking all day at my door.

Then felt I like a child that holds
A trumpet that he must not blow
Because a man is dead; I dared
Not speak to let this false world know.

Much have I thought of life, and seen
How poor men's hearts are ever light;
And how their wives do hum like bees
About their work from morn till night.

So, when I hear these poor ones laugh,
And see the rich ones coldly frown
Poor men, think I, need not go up
So much as rich men should come down.

When I had money, money, O!
My many friends proved all untrue;
But now I have no money, O!
My friends are real, though very few.

 

To the evening star – William Blake
Thou fair-hair'd angel of the evening,
Now, whilst the sun rests on the mountains, light
Thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!
Smile on our loves, and while thou drawest the
Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew
On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes
In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
And wash the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon,
Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,
And then the lion glares through the dun forest:
The fleeces of our flocks are covered with
Thy sacred dew: protect them with thine influence!

Texts of To the evening star in a powerpoint slideshow – suitable for performance use. (Slides by Stephen Emmerson)

 

 

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