Three Shakespeare Songs

 

1: Tell me, where is fancy bred

2: Come away, death

3: Come unto these yellow sands

These three part-songs were written during my 2nd year at Cambridge in 1964. The first performance was given at a King's College May Week concert in June 1965 by the King's Choir under Sir David Willcocks, and they were the first work of mine to receive national attention through several broadcasts and performances over the next 2 years. They were also the first important work of mine to be published, so they have understandably retained a special place in my affections. The music clearly reveals many of my preoccupations at the time, and there are strong echoes of Vaughan Williams, Britten, Tippett and the English madrigalists of the first Elizabethan Age. But there are already features of melody, harmony and structure which point forward to my more mature style.

 

"Tell me, where is fancy bred" is dominated by bell-like sounds, an effect which I have frequently returned to. The texture is characterised by distinct contrasts of high and low voices, and by the gradual combination of different thematic elements. "Come away, come away, death" has much in common with the part-songs of Moeran and Finzi, and is a gentle strophic setting of these poignant words. "Come unto these yellow sands" is fleet of foot, in keeping with the nimble character of the text, and tests the vocal agility of the singers to the full.

 

Christopher Brown 1993