Six songs

for tenor, piano
15 mins.

Prologue (piano solo)
1.’Tis true, ’tis day (Donne)
2. Persuasions to enjoy (Thomas Carew)
3. Take, O take (Shakespeare)
4. So we’ll go no more a-roving (Byron)
5. Sonnet LXIV (Shakespeare)
6. Echo’s lament  (Ben Jonson)

Programme notes

My Six songs were written in the winter of 1965-66, after my first year at university. They were my Op. 1 – the first piece which was not consigned to the juvenilia skip – and were first performed in Cambridge by tenor Peter Birts (later better known at the Bar and on the Bench) and myself. The mood is one of adolescent yearning – accurately reflecting my own condition in 1965 after eight years incarcerated in a boarding-school run by deluded monks. Although the style and technique are as derivative & immature than one might expect of a somewhat backward nineteen-year-old, the songs have a nice innocence and are well contrasted; so I have rescued them from the bottom drawer and tidied them up slightly.

The six songs trace a progression from youth to age, and from naïveté to a young male’s idea of worldly-wise cynicism. A dreamy piano Prologue sets the scene of randy adolescence. The first song ‘Tis true, ’tis day (John Donne) is the musical equivalent of a post-coital cigarette, the second, Persuasions to enjoy (Thomas Carew), is a tease, and the third, Take, O take those lips away (Shakespeare) is a hymn of desire. With the fourth song, So we’ll go no more a-roving (Byron), we enter middle age and a darker mood; the fifth, When I have seen by Time’s fell hand (Shakespeare: sonnet LXIV) questions love’s permanence, and the sixth, Echo’s lament (Ben Jonson), mourns its passing in a style not uninfluenced (as I now realise) by William Warlock.



© Giles Swayne 2017