Five Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins
About this work:
I doubt the music I have written to set Gerard Manley Hopkins’ five poems has risen to the level of seriousness the text requires. Hopkins is not only the greatest 20th century poet to have lived in the 19th century; he is surely one the greatest of any time. As with the work of all of the greatest poets, one can never be certain what Hopkins meant in every passage especially when two or more interpretations are equally plausible. There were nevertheless enough of his meanings that I could be sure of and strongly sympathetic with to suggest the wide range of emotions that I wished to convey in these songs. As a composer I shared some of the thoughts expressed by the nun in The Habit of Perfection as she prepares to assume her habit, a “habit” that the one who has given me the gift to compose has also expected me to assume. As the son of working-class parents, I think I have some understanding of Tom in the second song but also of the anger that Hopkins expressed at the end of his poem. By employing a theme at the beginning of Henry Purcell that sounds like a ground bass, a device that Purcell was a master of, I am expressing my own admiration of that composer’s work, although in his poem Hopkins had a point to make that he thought even more important. It may well be the playfulness of Pied Beauty that has made it one of Hopkins’ better known poems, but, as always, the text carries a still deeper message. For the cycle it provided a reason for music of a lighter touch and a joyous ending. For me and perhaps for Hopkins too the final text has the most personal meaning, and in its musical setting I allow myself and, I hope, the listener too to be lifted briefly above this earthly existence.
Score available from Mira Music Associates. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Version: soprano & piano
Year composed: 2005
Ensemble type: Voice, Solo or With Chamber or Jazz Ensemble:Solo Voice with Keyboard
Instrumentation: ,1 Piano soloist(s), ,1 Soprano soloist(s)