Orpheus – Carol Barnett

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Product Type: Digital Download

Format: SSAATTBB Score

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Composer: Carol Barnett

Text by: John‬‭ Fletcher‬‭ (1579-1625)‬

Instrumentation: SSAATTBB a cappella

Duration: Approx. 2'30''

Date Written:  1994

Composer’s note: The settings of these Elizabethan-era poems are all sound pictures that use an extended tonality to illustrate a few of the works of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. The harmonies are triadic, but the triads have added notes and travel far afield through each phrase before ending on euphonious cadences.

Through the use of alternating duplets and triplets, “There is a Lady” suggests the unsettled, can’t-focus feeling of being rapturous love.  

“My Love in Her Attire” is a rowdy back-of-the-bus-on-the-way-home-from-the-concert song that nonetheless needs finesse in getting the abrupt dynamic changes just right.  

The unhurried pace of “Care-Charming Sleep” evokes the serene otherworldliness of deep slumber. 

“Orpheus” is a siciliano in gentle but steady tempo. Voices singing “Orpheus…” are calling to him from the other side of the rive Styx.  

“Are They Shadows…”, based on double-diminished scales, should be as light and fleeting as possible. These scales are built with alternating whole and half steps, and there are two of them, depending on whether they start with a whole or half step. If you can sing these scales, you can sing the piece. 

An Elizabethan Garland was written for the Dale Warland Singers in 1994, and premiered by them in February 1995 at the University of St. Thomas Chapel in St. Paul, MN.


Orpheus with his lute made trees
And the mountain-tops that freeze
    Bow themselves when he did sing.
To his music plants and flowers
Ever sprung, as sun and showers
    There had made a lasting spring.

Every thing that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea,
Hung their heads, and then lay by.
In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart
    Fall asleep, or, hearing, die.

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