Fire-Flowers, on E.P. Johnson’s poem for a cappella SATB chorus

 

Date of composing October 2017

Genre choral song for mixed SATB chorus a cappella

Language English

Style Neo-Romantic, contemporary, ethnic

Duration [2’16”]

Level of difficulty intermediate to advanced

Copyrights music: © 2016 Natalia Pispini; lyrics: Emily Pauline Johnson’s poems from public domain

 

Idea and musical structure

B minor. Lento. The song has slightly severe and bitter mood affected by the poetic meaning of the verses. The strophic AA1 form follows the two couplets of the poem. The harmonies are of the romantic style, enriched by additional dissonant tones and dynamic modulations to distant tonalities. There are some features of Mohawk (Native American) music as well: ‘trichord’ pitch sets, dotted rhythms and sung syllables. The ranges are: soprano – F4 – G5, alto – A3 – A4, tenor – D3 – E4, bass – G2 – A3.

 

Lyrics

For this choral song, I chose a remarkable poem ‘Fire-Flowers’ by Emily Pauline Johnson (1861-1913), Canadian and Mohawk poet, writer and performer.

EPJohnson1

Fire-Flowers

by Emily Pauline Johnson

And only where the forest fires have sped,
Scorching relentlessly the cool north lands,
A sweet wild flower lifts its purple head,
And, like some gentle spirit sorrow-fed,
It hides the scars with almost human hands.

And only to the heart that knows of grief,
Of desolating fire, of human pain,
There comes some purifying sweet belief,
Some fellow-feeling beautiful, if brief.
And life revives, and blossoms once again.

 

Performance notes

No extended technique required.

Look at the score sample

! This work may be commissioned or/and performed. If you want to perform this song, please contact Natalia. In your message, kindly provide some information  (brief introduction, collective title, website, contact details).  The score, parts and all necessary material will be sent to you within a week. (So far, the score has been sent to: Massachusetts, USA).


Image of E.P. Johnson credit: Cochran / Library and Archives Canada, Acc. / no. 1952-010 / C-085125


 

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После дождя / After the rain, choral song on Alexander Block’s poem

 

 

From : Two choral songs on Alexander Blok’s poems

Title После дождя / After the rain

Date of composing March 2016

Genre choral songs for mixed SATB chorus a cappella

Language Russian

Style Romantic, Neo-Romantic

Duration [2’00”]

Level of difficulty advanced

Dedication to Nina A. Zharkova

Copyrights music: © 2016 Natalia Pispini; lyrics: Alexander Block’s poems from public domain

Idea and musical structure

In A. Andante. Working on the melody in this song, I tried to express the images coming out of the verses: a rain’s rare drops, a stream’s murmuring, flowers’ opening, birds’ calling are heard in the melodic outline. The form is free and following the lyrics. The texture is almost transparent, and the harmonies are ‘sharp’. The vocal ranges: soprano – D4 – A5, alto – B3 – C-sharp5, tenor – C-sharp3 – E-sharp4, bass – A2 – G-sharp3.

Lyrics

Russain text

Сирени бледные дождем к земле прибиты…

Замолкла песня соловья;

Немолчно говор слышится сердитый

Разлитого ручья…

 

Природа ждет лучей обетованных:

Цветы поднимут влажный лик,

И вновь в моих садах благоуханных

Раздастся птичий крик…

 

English transliteration

Sireni blednye dozhdyom k zemle pribity…

Zamolkla pesnya solov’ya;

Nemolchno govor slyshitsya serdityy

Razlitovo ruch’ya…

 

Priroda zhdyot luchey obetovannykh:

Tsvety podnimut vlazhnyy lik,

I vnov’ v moikh sadakh blagoukhannykh

Razdastsya ptichiy krik…

 

English translation

Pale lilacs are nailed to the ground by rain,

The nightingale’s song has fallen silent;

Incessantly, a grumpy murmur is heard

Out of the flooded stream …

 

The nature is waiting for the promised rays:

The flowers will rise their moist faces,

And in my aromatic gardens, once again,

The bird calls will resound…

 

Performance notes.

1.The piece has a subtle, sophisticated character. It should be performed with light rubato. 2. The piece contains dissonant harmonies which need special care when singing a cappella. 3. The voice ranges are demanding: while the soprano and alto parts have extension at their higher range, the tenor part has the extended lower range. 4. The sustained notes require unnoticeable, non-simultaneous breathing.

 

Look at the score sample

Listen to and watch MIDI-realization on YouTube

! This work may be commissioned or/and performed. First 10 copies are distributed at no charge. If you want to perform this song, please contact Natalia. In your message, kindly provide some information  (brief introduction, collective’s title, website, contact details). The score, parts and all necessary material will be sent to you within a week.

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Я стремлюсь к роскошной воле / I seek for the splendid vast, choral song on Alexander Block’s poem

 

From : Two choral songs on Alexander Blok’s poems

Title Я стремлюсь к роскошной воле / I seek for the splendid vast

Date of composing March 2016

Genre choral songs for mixed SATTB chorus a cappella

Language Russian

Style Romantic

Duration [2’09”]

Level of difficulty intermediate to advanced

Dedication to Nina A. Zharkova

Copyrights music: © 2016 Natalia Pispini; lyrics: Alexander Block’s poems from public domain

Idea and musical structure

D major. Largo. Notwithstanding the poem’s romanticism, I wanted to create music of calm and almost epic, objective character, oriented toward the early Russian choral manner. Slow motion, syllabic texture and regular rhythm of the lines through the whole composition are working for this stylization. The piece has ABA1 form. The harmonies are simple but colored by additional dissonant tones. The ranges are: soprano – C-sharp4 – G5, alto – B3 – A4, tenor I – B3 – E4, tenor II – E3 – A-sharp4, bass –  A2 – D3. (Originally, the song was composed in C major, i.e. in lower range, complying with the Russian choral style.)

Lyrics

Russian text

 [Там один и был цветок,

Ароматный, несравненный

Жуковский]*

Я стремлюсь к роскошной воле,

Мчусь к прекрасной стороне,

Где в широком чистом поле

Хорошо, как в чудном сне.

Там цветут и клевер пышный,

И невинный василек,

Вечно шелест легкий слышно:

Колос клонит… Путь далек!

Есть одно лишь в океане,

Клонит лишь одно траву…

Ты не видишь там, в тумане,

Я увидел – и сорву!

English transliteration

Ya stremlyus’ k roskoshnoy vole,

Mchus’ k prekrasnoy storone,

Gde v shirokom chistom pole

Khorosho, kak v chudnom sne.

Tam tsvetut i klever pyshnyy,

I nevinnyy vasilyok,

Vechno shelest lyogkiy slyshno:

Kolos klonit… Put’ dalyok!

Yest’ odno lish’ v okeane,

Klonit lish’ odno travu…

Ty ne vidish’ tam v tumane,

Ya uvidel – I sorvu!

English translation

[There was only one flower,

Aromatic, nonpareil

Zhukovsky]*

I seek for the splendid vast,

I rush to the beautiful land,

Where, in a wide smooth meadow,

It’s as good as in a dream.

They’re blooming there: a pompous clover

And an innocent cornflower,

Forever, a rustle’s slightly heard:

The ears are bending… The path is long!

There is only one thing in the ocean,

Only one that bends the grass…

You don’t see it there, in the mist,

I’ve seen, and I’ll pick it up!

* The original poem has an epigraph taken from Russian poet V.A. Zhukovsky (displayed for informative purposes only).

Performance notes.

1.The piece has a maestoso manner. It goes with the same mood and tempo from the beginning to the end. 2. It is meant for performance without any audible breathing breaks (i.e., the non-simultaneous breaths applied) except of the self-evident pauses at the end of composition. Otherwise, the very short breaths are possible at the end of the phrases. 3. The tenor part is constantly divisi to create additional harmonic colors, and should be treated with care in order not to dominate over other voices. 4. The bass part is better to sing by deep profundo-like voices.

 

Look at the score sample

Listen to and watch the whole piece as media clip on YouTube

! This work may be commissioned or/and performed. First 10 copies are distributed at no charge. If you want to play this piece, please contact Natalia. In your message, kindly provide some information  (brief introduction, collective’s title, website, contact details). The score, parts and all necessary material will be sent to you within a week.

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Two choral songs on Alexander Blok’s poems

Blok_comon_title

  1. Я стремлюсь к роскошной воле / I seek for the splendid vast. D major. Largo
  2. После дождя / After the rain. In A. Andante

 

Date of composing March 2016

Genre choral songs for mixed SATTB / SATB chorus a cappella

Language Russian

Style Romantic, Neo-Romantic

Duration [2’09”], [2’00”]

Level of difficulty intermediate to advanced; advanced

Dedication to Nina A. Zharkova

Copyrights music: © 2016 Natalia Pispini; lyrics: Alexander Block’s poems from public domain

I am glad to introduce another choral works bringing further exploration of the harmonic and textural possibilities of the Romantic music style. It is my second opus (after the cycle on Walt Whitman’s lyrics) composed for mixed a cappella chorus.

The choice was made for two early poems by Russian symbolist poet Alexander Blok (1880-1921), written in 1898-1899. These poems are not so peculiar to the famous symbolist style of Blok; they rather reflect views of a young, daydreaming and romantic personality, with ardent and idealistic attitude to the world around. The poems reveal admiration for the nature but there is also veiled parallelism to the psychological plane of human existence. These early poems by Blok truly bear a resemblance to the works of another Russian Romantic poetry master, Fyodor Tyutchev.

The songs are dedicated to Nina A. Zharkova, my first teacher of music.

For the Russian lyrics, I provide my own literal English translation (and the transliteration can be checked at the links below).

No.1. Я стремлюсь к роскошной воле / Ya stremlyus’ k roskoshnoy vole / I seek for the splendid vast

Russian text

Я стремлюсь к роскошной воле,

Мчусь к прекрасной стороне,

Где в широком чистом поле

Хорошо, как в чудном сне.

Там цветут и клевер пышный,

И невинный василек,

Вечно шелест легкий слышно:

Колос клонит… Путь далек!

Есть одно лишь в океане,

Клонит лишь одно траву…

Ты не видишь там, в тумане,

Я увидел – и сорву!

 

English translation

I seek for the splendid vast,

I rush to the beautiful land,

Where, in a wide smooth meadow,

It’s as good as in a dream.

They’re blooming there: a pompous clover

And an innocent cornflower,

Forever, a rustle’s slightly heard:

The ears are bending… The path is long!

There is only one thing in the ocean,

Only one that bends the grass…

You don’t see it there, in the mist,

I’ve seen, and I’ll pick it up!

 

No.2. После дождя / After the rain

Russian text

Сирени бледные дождем к земле прибиты…

Замолкла песня соловья;

Немолчно говор слышится сердитый

Разлитого ручья…

 

Природа ждет лучей обетованных:

Цветы поднимут влажный лик,

И вновь в моих садах благоуханных

Раздастся птичий крик…

 

English translation

The pale lilacs are nailed to the ground by rain…

The nightingale’s song has fallen silent;

Incessantly, a grumpy murmur is heard

Out of the flooded stream …

 

The nature’s waiting for the promised rays:

The flowers will raise their moist faces,

And again, in my fragrant gardens,

The bird calls will resound…

 

The works are independent from each other and do not constitute a cycle. Both choruses are quite slow (1 – Largo, 2 – Andante) and require long breathing technique. Look at the descriptions of each chorus at the links below.

Я стремлюсь к роскошной воле / I seek for the splendid vast

После дождя / After the rain

! These works may be commissioned or/and performed. First 10 copies are distributed at no charge. If you want to perform these songs, please contact Natalia. In your message, kindly provide some information  (brief introduction, ensemble title, website, contact details). The score, parts and all necessary material will be sent to you within a week.

Songs of Spring, three choral songs on Walt Whitman’s poems

 

songs_of_spring_title

  1. The First Dandelion. C major. Adagio
  2. After the Dazzle of Day. B minor – B major. Lento
  3. Out of May’s Shows Selected. G major. Allegretto

Date of composing April 2014; May 2015 – revised; January 2016 – revised

Genre choral songs for mixed chorus SATB a cappella; the second song is for SATB and alto solo

Language English

Style Romantic

Duration [1’43”], [2’21”], [1’52”]

Level of difficulty advanced

Copyrights music: © 2014-2016 Natalia Pispini; lyrics: Walt Whitman’s poems from public domain (credit to http://www.gutenberg.org)

Ideas and inspirations

Composed in spring but in desert scorching environment, the work was inspired by my dreaming of a spring full of fresh colors, fragrant smells and awaking noises. Three short poems by Walt Whitman had been chosen from his great poetic cycle ‘Leaves of Grass’, because of their vivid and picturesque character. They were combined within a cycle with its own evolution of poetical mood. The unity of these songs I could describe as a course of spring with the parallels to some phases of human life. Thus, the music is displaying images from the early spring (1st song with its pale colors, fresh plants, shy emergence, innocence, calmness) through the moment of pause and self-reflection (2nd song) to the late spring (3rd song with its bold colors, grown plants, completed existence, maturity, motion). The alternating focus onto external and internal world creates additional lyrical dramatic contrast within the cycle.

Performance notes

When performed together, it is important to follow up the original tonalities and tempo marks. For the performance notes, score samples and audio samples of each of the songs please click on the references below. Although the songs are intended to be performed as a cycle, it is possible to sing them separately.

The First Dandelion

After the Dazzle of Day

Out of May’s Shows Selected

 

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Out of May’s Shows Selected, on Walt Whitman’s poem

 

From the choral cycle ‘Songs of Spring’, No.3

Date of composing April 2014; May 2015 – revised; January 2016 – revised

Genre choral song for mixed chorus SATB a cappella

Language English

Style Romantic

Duration [1’52”]

Level of difficulty advanced

Copyrights music: © 2014-2016 Natalia Pispini; lyrics: Walt Whitman’s poems from public domain (credit to http://www.gutenberg.org)

Description

The song is in G major, Allegretto. It is based on ‘Out of May’s Shows Selected’ poem by Walt Whitman, from ‘The Leaves of Grass’:

Apple orchards, the trees all cover’d with blossoms;

Wheat fields carpeted far and near in vital emerald green;

The eternal, exhaustless freshness of each early morning;

The yellow, golden, transparent haze of the warm afternoon sun;

The aspiring lilac bushes with profuse purple or white flowers.

The form is ABA1B1C, where C is a resuming coda. The A-sections have a melody sung by male voices and bird-calling like short repetitive motifs of female voices. In the B-sections the melody is led by soprano-alto-tenor voices and accompanied by bass voices. The tonality changes are mainly from G major to B flat major and back, with additional tonal switches in between.

Performance notes

The performance is expected to have light-colored voice sound and brilliant virtuosity. The basic difficulties are bird-calling motifs and quick tonality changes and shifts. The syllable ‘le’ is suggested for those notes without lyrics, but it is given to the choice of a choir conductor to change the syllable if necessary. The vocal ranges are: Soprano – D4 – A5, Alto – G3 – C5, Tenor – D-flat3 – E4, Bass – G2 – A-sharp 3

Look at the score sample

Listen to the midi rendering

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After the Dazzle of Day, on Walt Whitman’s poem

From the choral cycle ‘Songs of Spring’, No.2

Date of composing April 2014; May 2015 – revised; January 2016 – revised

Genre choral song for alto solo and mixed chorus SATB a cappella

Language English

Style Romantic

Duration [2’21”]

Level of difficulty advanced

Copyrights music: © 2014-2016 Natalia Pispini; lyrics: Walt Whitman’s poems from public domain (credit to http://www.gutenberg.org)

Description

The song is in B minor – B major, Lento. For the lyrics, I chose ‘After the Dazzle of Day’ poem by Walt Whitman from his ‘The Leaves of Grass’:

After the dazzle of day is gone,

Only the dark, dark night shows to my eyes the stars;

After the clangor of organ majestic, or chorus, or perfect band,

Silent, athwart my soul, moves the symphony true.

The free developing form is based on alternation alto solo and chorus sections. The chorus repeats the poetical phrases sung by the soloist, and only near the end they sing together. The solo and chorus sections have different music by their meter (3/4 vs. 5/8), rhythm (more varied rhythm vs. more monotonous) and melodic contours (wider melody vs. step-by-step moving melody). The vocal ranges are: Alto solo – G3 – B-flat4; Chorus: Soprano – C-sharp4 – F5, Alto – A3 – A-sharp4, Tenor – F-sharp3 – F4, Bass – G-sharp2 – F-sharp3.

Performance notes

The alto solo voice is expected to have deep and rich timbre. The parts for alto solo and alto chorus are composed in such a way, when the best performance could be provided if the soloist is placed near other altos or surrounded by them. The 5/8 meter beats need to be as rhythmically precise as possible. The chorus harmonies contain a number of dissonant combinations.

Look at the score sample

Listen to the midi rendering

Purchase the score

 

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