A setting for unaccompanied SATB choir of Shakespeare’s sonnet no.18
Published by andagio
If I were Julie Andrews, singing about a few of my favourite things, the sound of unaccompanied voices singing in close harmony with each other would most certainly have to be on that list. There’s something so inexplicably touching and heart-rending about it, especially when those voices are perfectly blended.
The opening and closing sections of the piece are “straight”, that is to say that pairs of quavers are even; the middle section, however, is “swung”, that is to say that pairs of quavers are uneven, despite looking the same on the page. For the outer, straight sections, a fair amount of rubato is desirable in order to express the text as naturally as possible, but for the middle, swung section, there needs to be a steady tempo throughout. All of this is clearly marked in the score but I care deeply about such details which is why I’m also mentioning them here. At no point should the singers or the conductor feel any compulsion to rush onto the next word; please feel free to take your time to allow the words to breathe.
I was delighted to receive a commission from Clare Porter to compose this setting of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnet for The Oriel Singers, directed by Ben Sawyer. The final rhyming couplet so beautifully sums up what it means to keep someone’s memory alive in art: So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, so long lives this and this gives life to thee.
Joanna Forbes L’Estrange, February 2020