For a long time I wanted to compose a choral work with English lyrics but related to Greece. Among the first things there was Lord Byron’s philhellenism that came to my mind, and after searching I found one of his poems, a passage which is practically unknown. It looks rather like an unfinished draft, but the more I was reading it, the more impact it had on me. At once, this rough but yet genius fragment had given to me what I was seeking for: a retrospective view where great Greek mythology, history and spirit of freedom would be condensed just in few lines. Thus I’d made my choice. The choral song is easy to perform, it has only two choral parts (soprano-alto and tenor-bass). The flute pastoral solo (reference to ‘the mighty Pan’) had been added to the classical chorus+piano ensemble as an option.
Structure and technique
The song is in C major, Con moto e narrante. The lyrics are Lord Byron’s passage from his unfinished poem ‘Aristomenes’ written in Cephalonia island in September 1823, shortly after his arriving to Greece to help the Greek people in the liberation:
The Gods of old are silent on the shore.
Since the great Pan expired, and through the roar
Of the Ionian waters broke a dread
Voice which proclaimed “the Mighty Pan is dead.”
How much died with him! false or true—the dream
Was beautiful which peopled every stream
With more than finny tenants, and adorned
The woods and waters with coy nymphs that scorned
Pursuing Deities, or in the embrace
Of gods brought forth the high heroic race
Whose names are on the hills and o’er the seas.
The musical form is free and reflects the text. Natural modes have been chosen as the appropriate for the solemn, epic character of the piece. The phrases are evenly distributed between female and male voices to provide the easiness of singing of choral texture, and that makes the work suitable for amateur singers (while the piano and the flute parts should be considered of intermediate level of difficulty).
The performance is expected to move in moderate tempo and strict, stable rhythm. The flute part is optional and can be omitted.
Date of composing March 2017
Genre choral song for mixed 2-parts chorus, piano and flute
Level of difficulty beginner or amateur chorus
Copyrights music: © 2017 Natalia Pispini; George Gordon Byron’s poem ‘Aristomenes’ from public domain (https://en.wikisource.org)