The Consolation of Music
has a protracted history. I was first introduced to the enchanting poem by William Strode (1600-45) around 1965, and set its final stanza as a sort of chorale on September 9th
1966. In December 1971 I returned to it, adding the first two stanzas – the first as a reduced version of the original chorale on lower voices, the second as a free backwards-version on women’s voices. This complete setting was performed by the BBC Singers in 1975.
But the chorale alone was a bit unleavened; it still needed something else. In the summer of 1977 I was re-reading Herrick; the frequency of his poems commending the soothing powers of music reminded me of the Strode. I made a little pattern from one poem (To Musique, to becalm his fever
) set off by couplets from other poems whose titles I now forget. The women sing the whole; the men frame and punctuate with lines addressing music or women, not distinguishing very sharply between them; then both sexes exchange couplets in praise of love. The new section forms an introduction to the complete setting of the Strode, with its two plain stanzas, low then high, and the final full chorus with a luscious three-part descant for the sopranos.
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer