Five modal settings of well-known Shakespeare songs
- 11 minutes
1. Under the Greenwood Tree
A setting of Amiens' song from As You Like It. Set in a lilting G modal/major tonality, the three verses are employed strophically.
2. O Mistress Mine
A setting of the clown’s song from Twelfth Night. This song was part of the incidental music written for a production of Twelfth Night at Ward Freman School, Buntingford, in December 1980. Taken from Act 2, Scene 3, it is wistful and juxtaposes an E flat major/minor tonality. The piano accompaniment plays a dominant role in conveying the atmosphere, developing and imitating material from the vocal line.
3. Come away death
A setting of Feste’s song from Twelfth Night, Act 2, Scene 4, part of the incidental music written for a production of Twelfth night at Ward Freman School, Buntingford, in December 1980. The two verses, in an appropriately wistful mood, are set strophically, rising a tone from D to E modal minor. The piano enhances the emotional atmosphere with melodic development and enhancement throughout.
The composer Elizabeth Poston, who lived locally, was President of ‘Music at Ward Freman’ and attended a performance on 11 December 1980:
“I meant to write and tell you but got submerged in Christmas, how very much impressed I was with your music in Twelfth Night. I so enjoyed it. It seemed to me you succeeded in hitting lots of nails on the head in all sorts of different ways. Above all, I liked the music itself, and there was one piece at least that could surely be usefully expanded into something more extended? Why not make a Suite out of it and include the songs?...”
Extract from a letter to the composer from Elizabeth Poston dated 21 February 1981.
4. It was a lover and his lass
A setting for baritone and piano of the pages’ song from As You Like It. The four verses are set strophically in a modal D minor. The piano accompaniment varies two ideas: the first, using ostinati semiquavers, evokes a 16th-century secular style; the other, using syncopated quavers, returns to a more modern mood with hints of jazz rhythm and harmony. The final verse amalgamates the two styles of accompaniment.
5. Blow, blow thou winter wind
A setting of Amiens’ song from As You Like It. Set loosely in a modal D minor, this song has an underlying ironic mood that pervades the seemingly upbeat nature of the text.
The second verse concludes ambiguously in G - neither major nor minor.
- 10-13 December 1980: Twelfth Night at Ward Freman School, Buntingford. Feste – David Townshend (Baritone) – (Op. 20 Nos. 2 and 3 only)
- 9-12 December 1981: As You Like It at Ward Freman School, Buntingford. Amiens – Matthew Windebank – (Op. 20 Nos. 1 and 5) Con Alexander – (Op. 20 No.4)
- 8 March 2009: At Oundle Festival of Literature, Stahl Theatre, Oundle, Northamptonshire UK. John Barratt (baritone), Alec Hone (piano) (Op. 20 Nos. 1 & 2 only)
Under The Greenwood Tree (1981) is published in 'Music' GCSE Revise Guide: Longman 1990 (1st imp, 1st ed): 1992 (2nd imp; 1st ed): 1993 ( 2nd imp;2nd ed): 1994 (2nd imp;2nd ed): 1995 ( 3rd imp; 2nd ed): 1997 (3rd ed): 2000 (3rd imp)