A nine-movement song cycle for baritone with piano. Dedicated to Daniel Belcher and Pamela Haynes. Texts: letter excerpts from English Romantic poet John Keats to Fanny Brawne (his fiancee) throughout their two year relationship, during which Keats became ill with tuberculosis and was sent to Rome (for the warmer climate) where he died.
I wrote this cycle with Danny’s specific voice in mind: not only the timbre of his voice, but also the inflection I knew he would bring to certain words and phrases. This is why I love to write for musicians I know well. I relish anticipating what they will enjoy in the music (and words in this case), and how they will interpret the work. The same is true of Pamela Haynes on piano.
Above is a picture of the compositional process for me when working with lyrics (L to R) 1) working out rhythms for the lyrics without pitches, 2) developing melodic gestures and harmonic progressions and themes to complement the lyric rhythms, 3) fleshing out all the “voices” including accompaniments, etc., and 4) transcribing it to a readable format via Finale notation software.
For those who are interested — here are a few things to listen for:
- Credo (movement III) is a Passacaglia. Bell tones can be heard frequently in the piano.
- A Frog in a Frost (movement VI) includes leapfrog gestures in the piano, which are echoed in the voice. There is also a “ribbit” rhythm to the leaping gesture.
- The melodic material in My Expected Heaven (movement VII) is derived from the mating call of the male Robin.
I. Brighter than Bright
II. Ah Herté Mine
VI. A Frog in a Frost
VII. My Expected Heaven
IX. from Italy
Daniel Belcher, baritone
Pamela Haynes, piano
Haley Neilson, recording engineer (October 2017)
Recorded at Wine Recital Hall, Manchester University
North Manchester, Indiana