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Download an MP3 file of a performance of this work by the Thomas Circle Singers, Bailey Whiteman, mezzo-soprano, James Kreger, director.
Download a PDF file of the choral score of this composition. For perusal only -- not printable.
Commissioned for the Thomas Circle Singers by William M. and Marion D. Leach in memory of Elizabeth Ann Leach. Premiered by the Thomas Circle Singers – James Kreger, Artistic Director, Washington, DC March 24, 2007
Among the many, varied poems of Emily Dickinson are love poems – passionate love poems. These poems were written of a love which never developed into an established, recognized relationship. Indeed, these were composed by a poet who rarely left her home, who was rarely seen in public. Hers was a guarded soul, a heart in hiding.
The six songs in this set span the elements of love, from the gentle "Forever at His Side to Walk" to the ecstatic "A Kingdom's Worth of Bliss," from the reflective and sensual "The Moon is Distant from the Sea" to the overtly passionate "Wild Nights!" Each mood, each poem presents its individual interpretation of love. However, this set is framed by one poem which is viewed as a summary of love, and of life's spirit, "'Tis So Much Joy." [This poem appears in song #1, and returns in song #6, "A Jewel, a Joy."]
'Tis so much joy! 'Tis so much joy! If I should fail, what poverty!
And yet, as poor as I, have ventured all upon a throw!
Here the poet speaks of the uncertainty of love (a chance, a "throw"). And yet she is willing to risk her heart, to allow a passionate love to grow there – to "venture all." And in this way, she lived her life to the fullest.
And if I gain! Oh Gun at Sea! O Bells that in the Steeples be!
The musical setting employs a mixed chorus and piano, with a mezzo soprano soloist. The solo voice portrays the poet as she speaks in the first person: "What would I give to see his face?" The chorus sings the descriptive poetry: "Forever at His Side to Walk." Although starting separately, the two "voices" begin to interact, exchanging material, reinforcing the expression. Near the end, the chorus adopts the passages which had previously been presented by the soloist. "And if I gain! Oh Gun at Sea!" The piano accompaniment reverberates with a salutatory "gun" motive. All join forces as the work closes with the phrase "have ventured all!"
Notes by the composer