composer’s note: I have long been fascinated with the way in which William Blake’s artistic work simultaneously feels ancient & timeless, but also forward-looking and forcefully modern in its way. So, in writing “Evensong” on poetry by Blake, I decided to use an instrumental ensemble that recalls Baroque chamber music, but is also able to explore so many other musical textures. “To The Evening Star” begins in a very Baroque-inspired style, but becomes increasingly overtaken by romantic gestures and quirky instrumental flourishes as the song goes on. “Interlude” is sort of a cross between Baroque texture and a floating take on the “holy minimalism” of composers like Arvo Pärt. “The Angel” explodes the Baroque texture open, filling it with jagged harmonies and sharp edges before floating away in a highly chromatic, disorienting finale. In this way, “Evensong” is an homage to the music of the Baroque era, but also a soaring song-cycle that stretches and bends Baroque ideas in new, interesting, and beautiful ways.
“To The Evening Star” Thou fair-hair’d angel of the evening, Now, whilst the sun rests on the mountains, light Thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown Put on, and smile upon our evening bed! Smile on our loves, and while thou drawest the Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes, And wash the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon, Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide, And then the lion glares through the dun forest: The fleeces of our flocks are cover’d with Thy sacred dew: protect them with thine influence!
I dreamt a dream! What can it mean? And that I was a maiden Queen Guarded by an Angel mild: Witless woe was ne’er beguiled! And I wept both night and day, And he wiped my tears away; And I wept both day and night, And hid from him my heart’s delight. So he took his wings, and fled; Then the morn blushed rosy red. I dried my tears, and armed my fears With ten thousand shields and spears. Soon my Angel came again; I was armed, he came in vain; For the time of youth was fled, And grey hairs were on my head.