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A Shakespeare Garland

for SAATB choir, guitar and piano

Year:  1999   ·  Duration:  17m

Year:  1999
Duration:  17m

David Hamilton

Composer:   David Hamilton

Films, Audio & Samples

Sample Score

Sample: first page of each movement

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Every now and then the deputy musical directors of Auckland Choral Society are invited to jointly conduct a concert. In 1999 this took the form of a 'subscriber's bonus' concert, containing works requiring minimal accompaniment forces. Early discussions lead us in the direction of a Shakespeare-themed concert. In addition to conducting some American settings of Shakespeare, I decided to write a new cycle using Shakespearean texts. Given the nature of the intended concert, I wanted to write a work which was immediately approachable and contained an element of fun. My original intention was to compose a cycle based on references to flowers in Shakespeare's writings, as I had a copy of a book which detailed them. However, it soon became apparent that many references were part of texts which were not suitable for a musical setting : some were conversational and others merely a passing mention of a flower. I broadened my scope a little and fashioned a sequence of seven texts which all refer in some way to things botanical and/or seasonal. The first text is from As You Like It'and sets the well-known 'it was a lover and his lass' in a jazzy idiom. A complete contrast of mood is presented in 'Come, buy' from The Winter's Tale, where the words detail a variety of items which might be purchased to charm a lady. The third piece is a short setting of 'Hark, hark the lark' from Cymbeline. Unlike Schubert's well-known setting, this lark is rather boisterous and rowdy! The music owes more than a little to mid-twentieth century film music, perhaps a film involving a frenetic chase sequence! The centerpiece of the cycle is a setting of Shakespeare's best-known sonnet, Sonnet 18, which begins 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?' . Here the women's voices are heard on their own, with the 2nd altos given a rare chance to take the limelight. The fifth piece is a reflective setting of 'I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows' from A Midsummer Night's Dream. Initially unison voices present the melody, breaking into harmony only for the second half of the song. Throwing caution to the wind, the sixth piece is a madcap, cartoonish setting of 'When daisies pied' from Love's Labour's Lost. Where better to end the cycle than with the 'flower-power' era of the 1960's and a swinging version of 'Under the greenwood tree' from As You Like It' using just about every harmonic cliche of the music of that time. A Shakespeare Garland was written for, and is dedicated to, Auckland Choral Society who gave the first performance.

Commissioned note

Written for the Auckland Choral Society

Dedication note

Dedicated to Auckland Choral Society

Contents note

  1. It was a lover and his lass
  2. Come buy
  3. Hark hark the lark
  4. Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? (SAA)
  5. I know a bank where on the wild thyme grows
  6. When daisies pied
  7. Under the greenwood tree

Text note

From Shakespeare's As You Like It, The Winter's Tale, Cymbeline, Sonnet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Love's Labour's Lost

Performance history

13 Nov 1999: Performed by Auckland Choral Society