I have long been drawn to e e cummings’ extraordinary lyrical gifts. In fact, I set the fourth poem in this set (“my sweet old etcetera”) nearly 50 years ago. This setting was lost, but I’m sure the new one is much better! Each of the songs is a celebration: the first of the silent singing of children sculpted in stone; the second of kite-flying; the third a hymn to God and nature; the fourth a love-song from the muddy trenches of World War 1; and the last one of cummings’ many songs of the joys of Spring.
Three Baritone Songs were originally part of the cycle Five Dunedin Songs for tenor and guitar, composed in 1995. Bernadette Hall’s quirky and lively poems Lovesong and Song are set to music in a slightly jazzy manner, and frame the slow, reflective middle song, Tomahawk Sonnet. This evocation of a visit to the cemetery in Anderson’s Bay, Dunedin, is moving tribute to the poet’s father, requiring the pianist to hum as well as play.