Each Small Gleam Was a Voice

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SATB/piano
Secular or Spiritual text in English by Stephen Crane
Difficulty rating (1-5): 3

 
 listen to Each Small Gleam

P
erformed by Vocal Arts Ensemble, directed by Brett Scott

This piece was premiered by the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble,
directed by Brett Scoot, in Spring 2009.

American writer Stephen Crane is of course famous for his novel The Red Badge of Courage. His poetry is often quite dark, and unfortunately, a bit preachy, in my opinion. Each small gleam was a voice is a different Crane-- it is a simple, beautiful poetic canvas, describing nature in a gorgeous way. It certainly calls out for a musical setting I believe. Crane wrote prolifically in his short life, he was just 28 when he passed away. This poem is form his book of poetry War is kind & other lines, published in 1899.

In my setting, there are two elements I decided to use consciously, a fair amount of chromaticism and hints of polytonality (especially in the piano part) to paint the picture of all the colors of the spectrum Crane talks about. The second element is use of a lot of unison (or octave work) in the voices. This unison vocal work is often layered over the chromatic piano part to create tension and an odd starkness in the voices.

I would like to thank Brett Scott for artistically interpreting this piece when he premiered it with the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble in Spring 2009.

Complete perusal score available upon request.

 


TEXT by Stephen Crane

Each small gleam was a voice,
A lantern voice --
In little songs of carmine, violet, green, gold.
A chorus of colours came over the water;
The wondrous leaf-shadow no longer wavered,
No pines crooned on the hills,
The blue night was elsewhere a silence,
When the chorus of colours came over the water,
Little songs of carmine, violet, green, gold.

Small glowing pebbles
Thrown on the dark plane of evening
Sing good ballads of God
And eternity, with soul's rest.
Little priests, little holy fathers,
None can doubt the truth of your hymning,
When the marvellous chorus comes over the water,
Songs of carmine, violet, green, gold.

 

 

  

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       (partial score)


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