Piece of the Week 51 – ‘Snow’ for upper voices

Continuing with a theme of seasonal pieces, here is Snow. Like ‘Stocking and Shirt’ (Piece of the Week 49) this formed part of a much bigger piece commissioned for the 25th anniversary of Sing for Pleasure (who, this year, are celebrating their 60th anniversary!).

It’s written for upper voices in two parts and piano (organ in the first performance), and was later published by OUP as no. 2 of ‘At the Turn of the Year’.  The poem is by Walter de la Mare, who was a prolific writer, particularly for children, in the first half of the twentieth century. He is today particularly known as the compiler of an excellent and fascinating anthology of poetry, Come Hither, as well as for his own poems for young people.  ‘Snow’ is a short and characterful poem, beginning ‘No breath of wind, No gleam of sun’, and describes a scene of wintry desolation, later enlivened by a single ray of sun and a lonely robin. This landscape suggested to me the accompanying motive of chords built up on parallel augmented fourths, above which the two vocal parts exploit a range of mainly stepwise shapes, often imitating each other to create an overlapping texture.

This performance is a beautiful but unusual one – rather than by a young peoples’ choir it is by two professional sopranos, Maria Jette and Sonja Tengblad, with Philip Brunelle at the piano.

The sheet music is published by Oxford University Press.  Wrap up warm!