#35  The Art Song, continued ...


Whether in writing art songs or performing them,  it is likely that the text  will be an important initial element of inspiration both to the composer as well as the singer, and when hunting for materials to sing, the words will likely be the first attraction to a work, initiating our effort into learning the piece as a whole.

When the composer intertwines the text and the music, that combination creates something new; the poetís imagination plus the composerís imagination.           

Try this:

If you are looking for recital music to sing, look for texts that inspire you. Notice if the texture of the music combined with the poetry or lyrics evokes imagery or feelings.  Itís likely that the pieces that draw you out will also draw your audience in!      

Sing Pretty,






If you are attending the recital Sunday, July 24th at 2:00 at Iao Congregational Church of American and British 20th and 21st Century Composers, which is a fund raiser for Musical Voices Maui, you might find the following posting of the texts interesting.

This is an opportunity to read the poetry and lyrics as a short story on the themes of Spring, Love, Summer, Romance, Autumn, Balance, Winter, Death,  and Life Renewing.

The poets names are on the left, the composers are on the right.   


Greetings                                                        Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein

When a boy is born, the world is born again and takes its first breath with him

When a girl is born, the world stops spinning round and keeps a moments hushed wonder

Every time a child is born, for the space of that brief instant the world is pure.


To an isle in the water                                  Lee Hoiby

William Butler Yeats

Shy one; shy one of my heart,  

She moves in the firelight pensively apart

She carries in the dishes and lays them in a row

To an isle in the water with her would I go

She carries in the candles and lights the curtained room

Shy in the doorway and shy in the gloom

And shy as a rabbit, helpful and shy

To an isle in the water would I fly


She tells her love                                           Lee Hoiby

Robert Graves

She tells her love while half asleep

In the dark hours with half words whispered low

As earth turns in her winter sleep and puts out grass and flowers

Despite the snow, despite the falling snow


Spring                                                             Ned Rorem

Gerard Manly Hopkins


Nothing is so beautiful as spring

When weeds in wheels shoot long and lovely and lush

Thrushís eggs look like low heavens

And thrush through the echoing timber

Does so rinse and wring the ear

It strikes like lightening to hear him sing

The glassy pear tree leaves and blooms

They brush the descending blue

That blue is all in a rush with richness

The racing lambs too have fair their fling

What is all this juice and all this joy

A strain of the earthís sweet being

In the beginning in Eden garden

Have, get before it cloy

Before it cloud, Christ

Lord and sour with sinning

Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy

Most, O maidís child, thy child

Thy choice and worthy the winning


Early in the Morning                                     Ned Rorem

Robert Hillyer

Early in the morning, of a lovely summer day

As they lowered the bright awning at the outdoor cafť

I was breakfasting on croissant and cafť au lait

Under greenery like scenery, Rue Francois Premier

They were hosing the hot pavement with a dash of flashing spray 

And a smell of summer showers when the dust is drenched away

Under greenery like scenery, Rue Francois Premier

I was twenty and a lover and in paradise to stay,

Very early in the morning on a lovely summer day. 


Nantucket                                                      Ned Rorem

William Carlos Williams

Flowers through the window

Lavender and yellow

Changed by white curtains

Smell of cleanliness

Sunshine of late afternoon

On the glass tray a glass pitcher,

The tumbler turned down,

By which a key is lying

And the immaculate white bed.


The Birthday                                                  Ned Rorem

Christina Rossetti

My heart is like a singing bird whose nest is in a watered shoot

My heart is like an apple tree whose boughs are bent with thick set fruit

My heart is like a rainbow shell that paddles in a halcyon sea

My hear is gladder than all these because my love is come to me 

Raise me a dais of silk and down, hang it with vair and purple dyes

Carve it in doves and pomegranates and peacocks with a hundred eyes

Work it in gold and silver grapes, in leaves and silver fleurs-de-lis 

Because the birthday of my life is come, my love is come to me.


in spring comes                                              Dominick Argento

e.e. cummings

in spring comes

(no one asks his name)

a mender of things with eager fingers

(with patient eyes)

renewing remaking what otherwise we should have thrown away

(and whose brook-bright flower soft bird quick voice loves children and sunlight and mountains)

in april (but if he should smile)

comes nobody youíll know


when faces called flowers float out of the ground            Dominick Argento  

e.e. cummings

when faces called flowers float out of the ground

and breathing is wishing and wishing is having

but keeping is downward and doubting and never

itís april (yes april, my darling) itís spring

itís april (yes april, my darling) itís spring

yes the pretty birds frolic as spry as can fly

yes the little fish gambol as glad as can be

(yes the mountains are dancing together)

when every leaf opens without any sound

and wishing is having and having is giving

but keeping is dotting and nothing and nonsense

alive weíre alive dear itís (kiss me now) spring

now the pretty birds hover so she and so he

now the little fish quiver so you and so i

(now the mountains are dancing, the mountains are dancing, the mountains)

when more than was lost has been found has been found

and having is giving and giving is living

but keeping is darkness and winter and cringing

itís spring (all our night becomes day) o itís spring

itís spring (all our night becomes day) o itís spring

all the pretty birds dive to the heart of the sky

all the little fish climb through the mind of the sea

(all the mountains are dancing, are dancing)

o, itís spring


Will there really be a morning?                   Ricky Ian Gordon

Emily Dickinson

Will there really be a morning?

Is there such a thing as day?

Could I see it from the mountains if I were as tall as they?

Has it feet like water lilies?

Has it feathers like a bird?

Does it come from famous places of which I have never heard?

Oh, some scholar, oh some sailor, oh some wise man from the skies

Please to tell this little pilgrim where the place called morning lies. 

Will there really be a morning?

Is there such a thing as day?

Could I see it from the mountains if I were as tall as they?

Has it feet like water lilies?

Has it feathers like a bird?

Does it come from famous places of which I have never heard?

Oh, some scholar, oh some sailor, oh some wise man from the skies

Please to tell this little pilgrim where the place called morning lies. 

Once I was                                                      Ricky Ian Gordon

Ricky Ian Gordon

Once I was, I was, I was

There were ribbons in my hair

There were leaves of streaming gold everywhere

If a boy said hello I would hide trembling so, trembling so

Now I barely know what the meaning of ďnoĒ is

Now I am, I am, I am

Past an audience I stare what is gold is how the lights touch my hair

All the boys turn to men, all the leaves change again, change again

Still I answer yes though I know what will happen

As these phases come and go, music tells me what I need to know. 


The Red Dress                                                Ricky Ian Gordon

Dorothy Parker

I always saw, I always said if I were grown and free

Iíd buy a gown of reddest red as fine as you could see

To wear out walking sleek and slow upon a summerís day

And thereíd be one to see me so and flip the world away

And he would be a gallant lad with stars behind his eyes

And hair like metal in the sun and lips too warm for lies

I always saw us gay and good high honored in the town

Now I am grown to womanhood

I have the silly gown


Coyotes                                                          Ricky Ian Gordon

Ray Underwood

I understand you coyotes; I understand the song you croon

I never did before, before I hungered for his kisses underneath an amber moon

Oh how I loathe you, coyotes, and everything you know of me

You sing of my demise, that laughing in your eyes turns all my love to bitter mockery

Yes, coyotes, you tell of all that I am dreaming of

Yes, coyotes, you tell of these fools fool enough to love

Laugh on, laugh on you wild coyotes.

With angels on you razor backs who tell me not to stay and beckon me away

To run the ridges with your frenzied packs

No man may own my soul from off this frozen knoll

Iíll scream it till I turn that moon to wax!


The Secrets of the Old                                  Samuel Barber                                                          

William Butler Yeats

I have old womenís secrets now

That had those of the young

Madge tells me what I dared not think when my blood was strong

And what had drowned a lover once sounds like an old song

Though Margery is stricken dumb if thrown in Madgeís way

We three make up a solitude

For none alive today can know the stories that we know or say the things we say

How such a man pleased women most of all that are gone

How such a pair loved many years and such a pair, but one

Stories of the bed of straw or the bed of down. 


Promiscuity                                                    Samuel Barber

9th Century

I do not know with whom Edan will sleep

But I do know that fair Edan will not sleep alone


Sure on this shining night                            Samuel Barber

James Agee

Sure on this shining night of star made shadows round

Kindness must watch for me this side the ground

The late year lies down the north

All is healed

All is health

High summer holds the earth

Hearts all whole

Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder

Wandering far alone of shadows on the stars                                              


In the Wilderness                                          Samuel Barber

Robert Graves

He, of his gentleness thirsting and hungering walked in the wilderness

Soft words of grace he spoke unto lost desert folk that listen wondering

He heard the bittern call from ruined palace wall answered him brotherly

He held communion with the she pelican of lonely piety

Basilisk, cockatrice flocked to his homilies 

With mail of dread device with monstrous barbed stings with eager dragon eyes

Great bats on leathern wings and old blind broken things mean in their miseries

Then ever with him went of all his wanderings comrade with ragged coat

Gaunt ribs poor innocent, bleeding foot burning throat

The guiles young scapegoat

For forty night and days followed in Jesusí ways

Sure guard behind him kept

Tears like a lover wept


Nocturne                                                        Ralph Vaughn Williams                                            

Walt Whitman

Whispers of heavenly death murmured I hear

Labial gossip of night, sibilant choralesí

Footsteps gently ascending, mystical breezes wafted soft and low

Ripples of unseen rivers, tides of a current flowing, forever flowing

(Or is it the plashing of tears? The measureless water of human tears)

I see, just see skyward, great cloud masses

Mournfully slowly they roll, silently swelling and mixing 

With at times a half dimmed saddened far off star 

Appearing and disappearing

(Some parturition, rather)

Some solemn immortal birth, on the frontiers to eyes impenetrable

(Some soul is passing over)


A Clear Midnight                                           Ralph Vaughn Williams                                

Walt Whitman

This is thy hour, O soul thy free flight into the wordless,

Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done

Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best

Night, sleep, death and the stars


Joy, shipmate, joy!                                        Ralph Vaughn Williams                                

Walt Whitman

Joy, shipmate, joy!

(Pleased to my soul at death I cry)

Our life is closed, our life begins

The long, long anchorage we leave

The ship is clear at last, she leaps,

She swiftly courses to the shore

Joy, shipmate, joy!


Recital flier click here


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