(Two sections from) And I heard the Songs unsung

      1. listen

In assessing the spiritual dimension of Peabody’s oeuvre, Warren S. Archibald observes that she is concerned with the love of humanity, and that her religion if one of “faith, hope and charity. She knows the darkness, but … always sees the gleam.”

My approach to the choice and progression of her texts also follows this search for “the gleam”, an image of hope and the eternal. Beginning with Eden and the symbolic fall of humanity (On what lost star are we?), the cycle is constantly searching for “Light, everlasting.”  This finally comes, in spite of earthly misery and grief, as something ineffable. Although not heard in tonight’s selection, the singer’s final utterance is that his soul “shall hear all songs, unsung, unknown/Uprising with the breath of all the stars.”

Tonight we will hear the opening sequence of the work up until the first instrumental interlude, and then hear the final section of cycle (apart from the epilogue). This final sequence is one of the few places in which one of Peabody’s poems is used in its complete form from start to finish. Movement IX., White Silence, is a setting of the poem Harvest Moon 1916. This poem, a reflection on humanity at war mirrors on a small scale, the emotional trajectory and intention of the cycle as a whole. Following a kind of “instrumental storm,” the ebb and flow of the tide emerges to form a calm, which is at first disrupted by “chaos” but eventually leads to “light perpetual.”

The song cycle was generously commissioned by Peter Brock, to whom the work is dedicated. I would also like to express my deepest personal gratitude for his time, kind encouragement, and invaluable attention to detail, in bring together all aspects of the piece.

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