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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.
Written for the Auckland Choral Society
Dedicated to Auckland Choral Society
- It was a lover and his lass
- Come buy
- Hark hark the lark
- Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? (SAA)
- I know a bank where on the wild thyme grows
- When daisies pied
- Under the greenwood tree
From Shakespeare's As You Like It, The Winter's Tale, Cymbeline, Sonnet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Love's Labour's Lost
13 Nov 1999: Performed by Auckland Choral Society