SATB Chorus a Cappella
I: Orpheus With His Lute
II: Full Fathom Five
III: Sonnet 18
Duration ca. 11'
TEXTS AND PROGRAM NOTES:
The Eye of Heaven considers that the three famous poems in their original dramatic contexts (either in a play or as a Sonnet) are all addressed to someone who is listening to, and presumably emotionally reacting to, the speaker of the words. Orpheus with his Lute is a song sung by a servant who is commanded by a very sad Queen to sing something to calm her. Full Fathom Five is an elegy to a drowned father, spoken to the son whose emotional reactions become part of the musical setting. Sonnet 18 is a love poem addressed directly to a lover. All three are inherently dramatic in that sense, and the musical settings reflect the two-character scenes the words suggest.
1. Orpheus With His Lute
From The Life of King Henry the Eighth
Act III, Scene 1
The Palace at Bridewell. A Room in the Queen’s Apartment. Enter the Queen and her women as at work.
Take thy lute, wench: my soul grows sad with troubles;
Sing, and disperse 'em, if thou canst. Leave working.
Song (Sung by a servant):
Orpheus with his lute made trees,
And the mountain tops that freeze,
Bow themselves when he did sing:
To his music plants and flowers
Ever sprung; as sun and showers
There had made a lasting spring.
Every thing that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea,
Hung their heads, and then lay by.
In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart
Fall asleep, or hearing, die.
Note: This poem has been adapted to emphasize the original dramatic setting which is an interplay between Queen Katherine’s command for a song to ease her sorrow, and the song sung by her servant which in turn comments upon both the Queen’s state of mind and the healing power of music as created in myth by Orpheus.
2. Full Fathom Five
From The Tempest
Act I, Scene 2
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell
Hark! Now I hear them – Ding-dong, bell.
Note: The spirit Ariel sings “Full Fathom Five” to Ferdinand, who in his confusion following a shipwreck in which he believes his father to have drowned, hears mysterious music on the island of the magician Prospero, where all is illusion (including the shipwreck) except love. Ariel’s mysterious song of a “sea-change” and an afterlife transformational metamorphosis into “something rich and strange” is a mystical and magical eulogy evoking the tolling of underwater bells, as “Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell.”
Watery depths are evoked as the setting begins with descending lines as if a mariner is slowly enveloped ever deeper into a sun-filled emerald sea afterlife. As with all three of the settings in The Eye of Heaven, this setting acknowledges that there is both a speaker and a listener, and ultimately the music transforms from Ariel’s narrative into Ferdinand's own vision of the tolling of underwater bells and his grief for his father. This setting for chorus a cappella is an arrangement of the original setting for chorus and orchestra in the composer’s Shakespeare Symphony for Soprano, Baritone, SATB Chorus and Orchestra (2019).
3. Sonnet 18
Text added by the composer shown in [brackets], omitted text indicated in italics.
[How shall you? Compare me?]
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
[Shall death brag I wander in his shade?]
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
[…gives life to me.]
Note: This vocal setting adapts this famous poem to propose a dramatic question/reply dialogue between the poet and the subject of the poem. Thus “How shall you compare me?” is answered by “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” Similarly, the question “Shall death brag I wander in his shade?” is answered by the Sonnet’s closing couplet where the poem “gives life to thee” and also “gives life to me.”
Available for purchase
Recorded by The Hollywood Film Chorale conducted by Lesley Leighton:
Available from all leading digital music service providers, including:
YouTube (with scrolling score): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wU4gUAMGAt4
Available for purchase at:
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