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Daylight Divine (2001)

For solo soprano, children's chorus and chamber orchestra
Text by Gerard Manley Hopkins

solo soprano, childrens chorus and 2221/2200/harp/1 percussion/small strings
First performance: Christine Brandes, soprano; Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Indianapolis Children's Choir; John Nelson, conductor; Paris, France: 12 June 2001
Duration: 20 minutes

 
Program Note

Christine Brandes, soprano

Composing for voice is a huge passion of mine, and as a result the largest part of my catalogue is music for voice(s).  The human voice — possibly the most subtle, complex, and fragile, yet forceful, flexible, seductive, and persuasive carrier of musical ideas and meanings — has always been an inspiration for and influence upon all my musical thinking.  I sing when I compose.  I believe that text plus music (1+1) must equal at least 24.  If 1+1=2, there is no need, for me, to set the text to music.

Gerard Manley Hopkins' poems illustrate an extraordinary sensitivity to gracefulness and beauty in nature and in mankind. Hopkins was an independent thinker and his sense of rhythm and rhyme (he invented the term "sprung rhythm") is magical and musical. The musicality, honesty, passion, and penetration of the poems of Hopkins attract me, as a reader and as a composer, time and time again.

Hopkins scholar and editor Catherine Phillips wrote:

"The central experience of Gerard Manley Hopkins' life was an experience of feeling God's presence in nature so that perceiving the essence or "inscape" of a thing was to perceive some part of God and even to feel at times that it was possible to communicate directly with him through nature. Nature and religious worship infuse one another. Gerard Manley Hopkins invented a second term "instress" to indicate the force that held the thing or the individual together or described a momentary flash of communication between the observer and the thing observed."


John Nelson, conductor

There is a two-minute orchestral interlude between the two movements, and throughout the score the children's chorus is divided into several subdivisions (2, 4, 6, 8, etc.), allowing for rich harmonies, counterpoint, and antiphonal sections.

These Hopkins texts are at times intensely mature ("my heart in hiding stirred for a bird, - the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!"), while at other times they are playful ("For skies of couple-color as a brinded cow").  For this reason, I "heard" both a solo soprano and a children's chorus; having a mature voice along with young voices seemed to capture the essence of the poems, their tone and their spirituality.

Daylight Divine was commissioned and premiered by the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris and Soli Deo Gloria. The work was initially performed on 12 June 2001, conducted by John Nelson, with soprano soloist Christine Brandes and the Indianapolis Children's Chorus.  The performance took place in the Basilica of Saint Denis in Paris, and it seemed fitting in so many ways to set these texts for that occasion as Gerard Manley Hopkins was a Jesuit priest.

— Augusta Read Thomas

Text

Two poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins
The Windhover and Pied Beauty

 

The Windhover
To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning's minion, kingdom of daylight's dauphin,
dapple-dáwn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rólling level úndernéath him steady áir, & stríding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl & gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, — the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty & valour & act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, o my chevalier!

No wónder of it: shéer plód makes plóugh down síllion
Shine, & blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gáll themsélves, & gásh góld-vermílion.


Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things —
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted & pieced — fold, fallow, & plough;
And áll trades, their gear & tackle & trim.
All things counter, original, spáre, strange;
Whatever is fickle, frecklèd, (who knows how?)
With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change:
Práise hím.

 

Indianapolis Children's Choir
 

Ensemble Orchestral de Paris

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