Piece of the week 68: My Song (This song of mine) for SATB choir

When I was writing my choral cantata ‘Endless Song’, which was first performed by the Waltham Singers last year, I spent much time searching for short poems about different aspects of singing. This research for text is something that I find fascinating, though one shouldn’t underestimate the time that it takes in the composition process.

But in the case of this movement from the cantata, the poem ‘My Song’ leapt out at me, and seemed to come ready-made with musical ideas! The poem is by Rabindranath Tagore – a name I knew, but didn’t know much about.

Winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, Tagore (see illustration) was a Bengali poet, playwright, composer, philosopher, social reformer, and painter – a veritable polymath who is highly revered in his home country. Born of a wealthy family in Calcutta in 1861, he was partially educated in the UK (though he preferred to be thought of as ‘self-educated’) and during his life created a large body of work and travelled widely, dying in Calcutta in 1941.

As a composer in the Bengali folk tradition, it’s not at all surprising that much of his poetry has a lyrical musicality to it. Originally written in Bengali, and translated into English by Tagore himself, My Song begins thus:
This song of mine will wind its music around you, my child, like the fond arms of love.
Really, you couldn’t ask for a more promisingly musical opening. The poem continues with a similar expressive freedom, and the blank verse encouraged me to set it in a freely changing metre, sometimes moving from unison to a four-part texture, with undulating melodies and gentle harmony. After a certain amount of ebbing and flowing, a climax is reached in the final pages, soon to drop to a low point on the word ‘death’ then rising again with a final burst of optimism:
My song will sit in the pupils of your eyes, and will carry your sight into the heart of things. And when my voice is silent in death, my song will speak in your living heart.

 The complete cantata Endless Song, which includes this movement, will be performed again on 22 June by Colchester Choral Society, conductor Ian Ray, at St Botolph’s Church, Colchester.

And a new version for unaccompanied choir of My Song will receive its first performance in St. John’s Church, Epping, on 29 June, sung by Felicitas, director Simon Winters.

Here’a a link to the first performance of My Song, accompanied by string quintet.

Here’s a link the unaccompanied version – as this version is yet to be performed, this is a digital demo track.

Details of how to purchase the music is here.