Come, my dark eyed one
COME MY DARK EYED ONE, FOR SOPRANO AND BARITONE SOLOISTS, LARGE ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS
Libretto compiled by Marie-Eve Munger
Premiered by Boston's Back Bay Choral to celebrate the Chorale's 35th anniversary, at Harvard University's Sanders Theatre,
Scott Jarrett, conductor
3(pic).2.2.2 - 188.8.131.52 - 3perc - hrp - str
For a composer, to be commissioned to write a companion work for the Brahms Requiem is the equivalent of charging a visual artist to create a canvass that will hang in tandem with the Mona Lisa. In addition to that universal challenge, being asked to compose a work for the first major ensemble with which one worked, in the city in which one was trained and being performed by colleagues and friends sets up a myriad of personal expectations and challenges. Thus, the process of sitting down to begin putting pen to paper with this work was one filled with this overwhelming combination of excitement and dread!
Although the programmatic pairing with the Brahms could be taken simply as a technical connection of shared instrumentation, it became important through the compositional process that Come My Dark Eyed One lead into the Requiem in a coherent arch. Therefore, it was necessary that the subject matter of this new work share the down-to-earth humanity of the German Requiem and not be a work mired in mysticism – matching neither Orthodox nor Catholic Christian sentiment, but a more “Protestant” verisimilitude. Thus, the choice was made for a secular subject matter without specific dramatic intent, but rather a series of poems that could create a scrapbook of vignettes that reference the life and death of two lovers.
To not be “dramatic” means that the sense of time and timing is lost in this work – characters can be in different dimensions simultaneously at any given time – two souls somewhere between life and death searching for meaning and resolution and asking the question “does love end after death?” Even in the canonic duet of the 6th movement, it is not clear who is alive, who is dead, who is remembering an experience, who is having the experience in real time, if the characters are together or separated by dimensions and time. Indeed, while composing it became clear to me that this wasn’t a requiem for one or other of the lovers, but that it was a timeless story, and that both characters could be ghosts, or that both characters could be very much alive projecting their life experience into some future uncertainty.
My grandmother, whose husband had passed away when my father was only 3 years old, used to tell me a story of how the thirty-plus years without her husband were filled with moments of her sensing his presence with her, actually feeling the blow of his breath on the back of her neck and often, and commonly sensing his aura with her. They had conversations together, one of which I witnessed at his gravesite when I was a young child. It is this kind of life-connection–verging-on-ghost story that underpins the thematic and textual structure of Come My Dark Eyed One.
The musical work itself is structured in a circular fashion taking the 5th movement as the axis of symmetry. The work begins with a short invocation and follows into a three movement symmetrical structure exploring sexuality, romance and sentiment, with the 2nd and 4th solo movements surrounding an energetic post-minimalistic 3rd movement. Similarly, movements 6,7 and 8 share a symmetrical relationship, surrounding the 7th movement – a striking statement made by the chorus a cappella. Thus formalistically and architecturally there are the paired structures of: movements 2 and 4, 6 and 8 and 3, 5 and 7. This allows for a very clear musical form that allows the textual ambivalence to be supported.
The language of the score continues my eclectic understanding of post-Bernstein America, which is the logical musical vocabulary of a Greek-Mexican-Hungarian-German, half Jew, half Catholic, born-in-Hollywood, grew-up-in-New York City, Anglican boy chorister, formally trained in Boston, protégé of Lukas Foss, thirty-something composer! One then expects to find driving pulse, mixed meter, modes of limited transposition, aleatoric gestures, overtly tonal melodic structures, references to Jazz and the Blues, large-scale orchestration, and harmonies that have become known as “American.” All of these sounds are there, with the intention that the collage of the component parts do make a unified whole: a statement that is clear and emotionally intact. A work that perhaps has elements of derivative familiarity – but in a manner where the successful synthesis of stylistic variety becomes the objective.
Come My Dark Eyed One is probably the last work I will complete while still in my thirties and in many ways this piece already feels like a milestone, or marker for me. In this highly prolific decade that has seen the composition of 2 operas, 2 concertos, several other orchestral works, dozens of choral compositions and arrangements, in addition to the publication of my complete output by E. C. Schirmer – with this work I sense the culmination of this period of wild activity and the shifting into a new level of my development as an artist. It seems fitting that this shift would be sparked by the catalystic commission of my friends in Boston! It is therefore with great love and gratitude that I give this work to the Back Bay Chorale and its dynamic 5th music director, Scott Allen Jarrett.
Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night; In memoriam (excerpt)
Ring out, wild bells...
John Clare (1793-1864)
I ne'er was struck before that hour
With love so sudden and so sweet. First Love
Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower
And stole my heart away complete.
My face turned pale as deadly pale,
My legs refused to walk away,
And when she looked, what could I ail?
My life and all seemed turned to clay.
And then my blood rushed to my face
And took my sight away.
The trees and bushes round the place
Seemed midnight at noonday.
I never saw so sweet a face
As that I stood before:
My heart has left its dwelling place
And can return no more.
I. WOMEN CHORUS AND SOPRANO SOLO
II. TUTTI CHORUS
Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
I am wild, I will sing to the trees,
I will sing to the stars in the sky,
I love, I am loved, he is mine,
Now at last I can die!
I am sandaled with wind and with flame,
I have heart-fire and singing to give,
I can tread on the grass or the stars,
Now at last I can live!
Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Futile the winds
To a heart in port, -
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.
Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!
Your face is beautiful beyond all other faces;
Beyond all music and all poetry
Your face is beautiful to me.
I am reminded always of sea beaches
That lately have been laved with storm
And have no more to show
Now to the searcher than one shell, like snow,
Fluted more deep than shallow-water shells--
Your face is beautiful beyond all other faces,
More to me now than dear remembered places,
More to me now than anything I know.
Come my dark eyed one, come and show your kindness,
Weave a nest for yourself, in the depth of my pupils.
Turn the garden of my heart into a flowerbed, for the blossom that is your face,
And the rest your slender form so like the sapling in the garden that is my heart.
SOPRANO AND BARITONE DUET
I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.
You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.
Oh plunge me deep in love put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky, Lord Alfred Tennyson
The flying cloud, the frosty light: In memoriam
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells...
CHORUS A CAPELLA
Shall we, too, rise forgetful from our sleep,
And shall my soul that lies within your hand
Remember nothing, as the blowing sand
Forgets the palm where long blue shadows creep
When winds along the darkened desert sweep?
Or would it still remember, tho' it spanned
A thousand heavens, while the planets fanned
The vacant ether with their voices deep?
Soul of my soul, no word shall be forgot,
Nor yet alone, beloved, shall we see
The desolation of extinguished suns,
Nor fear the void wherethro' our planet runs,
For still together shall we go and not
Fare forth alone to front eternity.
SOPRANO AND BARITONE DUET
I shall bury my weary Love
Beneath a tree,
In the forest tall and black
Where none can see.
I shall put no flowers at his head,
Nor stone at his feet,
For the mouth I loved so much
I shall go no more to his grave,
For the woods are cold.
I shall gather as much of joy
As my hands can hold.
I shall stay all day in the sun
Where the wide winds blow,
But oh, I shall weep at night
When none will know.
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)