Four Bird Songs (2018)
Voices in two parts, or SATB
1. The Owl
2. The Eagle
3. The Silver Swan
4. The Robin
The composer writes:
I set myself a little challenge with these four songs – to write short character pieces in two parts which could be performed by any voice group, achieving contrasting moods within a short space of time, and which could be performed as a set or separately.
The first song, a setting of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s description of the mysterious and unfathomable owl, suggested a lively sense of colour and atmosphere within a nineteenth century context of windmills, haymaking, and milk-maids.
By contrast Tennyson’s vividly portrayed eagle, in the second song, could be for any century, deftly summing up power, skill, and the fight for survival in just a few lines, to which I respond with a simple upwards and downwards movement, ending with a dramatic twist.
Almost every choral singer knows Orlando Gibbons’ The Silver Swan, and for my third song I have taken his anonymous text and aimed to suggest the glorious period of the English madrigal while paying gentle tribute to Gibbons’ setting.
The fourth song is The Robin. John Clare’s poetry often celebrates the rural life of which he was a part, and these lines, taken from his long poem The Shepherd’s Calendar, show acute observation and wit, to which I hope I have responded in kind!