The First 150

I recently stumbled upon the fact that I had just set my 150th lyric or poem to music. I began to wonder if there would be anything to be learned or gleaned about process (or even bias) by looking back briefly at those that I had elected to set. I have long suspected I have gravitated to certain types of poetry and language, but has it shown itself to be true? Is it merely functional factors such as the 1923 public domain barrier that have caused me to settle into a textual groove, or maybe I don’t have a groove at all…

…and the Glory of the Lord
Mitzvah | the Command, Everlasting
Psalm 67
Psalm 84
Psalm 95

Traditional Latin
• V. Adoramus te, Christe [The Rose of Midnight]
• I. Christus factus est [The Rose of Midnight]
• III. Crucifixus [The Rose of Midnight]
Domine quis habitabit
Hic est Martinus
In paradisum
O crux ave
Panis angelicus
• VI. Surrexit pastor bonus [The Rose of Midnight]
• II. Tenebrae factae sunt [The Rose of Midnight]
Quam benignus es

Corpus Christi
I sing of a Maiden
Waly Waly

Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1907)
Dante Alighieri (c1265-1321)
Light Mirrors
the wheel that moves the sun and stars
Zoë Akins (1886-1958)
• II. I am the wind [Chartless]
St. Augustine of Hippo (354-386)
Jacob Auslander
I Come Singing
Elsa Barker (1869-1954)
The Frozen Grail [7 Song Cycle]
Danielle Barnum (b1985)
Bring Me Light
Dana Bennett
The Lie
Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)
• VII. O verbum Patris [The Rose of Midnight]
William Blake (1757-1827)
My Love and Grave
The Lamb
The Tyger
Robert Bode (b1957)
Carol of the Angels
Healing Heart
• II. In the Silence [A Thousand Red Birds]
Take My Hand
Bertold Brecht (1898-1956)
• III. Yes [Sing in Dark Times]
Emily Brontë (1818-1848)
Last Lines
William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)
The Snow Shower
Robert Burns (1759-1796)
A Red, Red Rose
George Gordon Noel Byron (1788-1824)
She Walks in Beauty
Summer’s Ocean
Thomas Campion (1567-1619)
the Garden
Bliss Carmen (1861-1929)
look up…
Vine Colby (1886-1971)
the Rainbow | une vignette chorale
Stephen Crane (1871-1900)
XXV: War is Kind
Walter Crane (1845-1915)
Across the fields
George William Curtis (1824-1892)
The Sounding Sea
Emily Dickenson (1830-1886)
• I. Chartless [Chartless]
Sidney Dobell (1824-1874)
Digby Mackworth Dolben (1848-1867)
Flowers for the Altar
Agnes Mary Frances Duclaux (1857-1944)
Antiphon to the Holy Spirit
John Charles Earle (1782-1845)
Lo, I am with you always
Maude Gordon-Roby (1868-1927)
Spark | To Music
Dora Greenwell (1812-1882)
• iii. the Blade of Grass
Ruth Guthrie Harding (1822-?)
Heinrich Heine (1799-1856)
Robert Herrick (1591-1649)
one endlesse Day
Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819-1881)
The Beautiful Sing
Thomas Hood (1799-1845)
Fair Ines
Lady in the Water
the Sweetheart of the Sun
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)
Jenny Kiss’d Me
Randall Jarrell (1914-1965)
Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
E. Pauline Johnson, Tekahionwake (1861-1913)
• i. The Brier [The True Knowledge]
Howard P. Johnson
Jarvis Keiley (1876-?)
Charles Kingley (1819-1875)
When All Was Young
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
The Bee-Boy’s Song
Kelsey Kittleson (2001-2017)
Already Soaring
Sidney Lanier (1842-1881)
• ii. the Trees and the Master [The True Knowledge]
Two Dear Hearts
Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931)
• IV. The Rose of Midnight [The Rose of Midnight]
Thomas MacDonaugh (1878-1916)
The Stars Stand Up in the Air
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
Afternoon on a Hill
I cannot hold thee close enough
Joseph Mohr (1792-1849)
Christmas Night
Harriet Monroe (1860-1936)
Great Divide
William Morris (1834-1896)
Love is enough
Waiting for the Dawn
Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827)
The Sunken City
Jane Oakes
• I. Grounding [A Thousand Red Birds]
Josephine Preston Peabody (1874-1922)
After Music
Phil Porter
• III. A Thousand Red Birds [A Thousand Red Birds]
Bryan Waller Procter (1787-1874)
Fall, Sweet Music | un petit fantasme
James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)
Days Gone By
Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935)
The House on the Hill
Ronald Ross (1857-1932)
• I. The Hateful Crime [Sing in Dark Times]
Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)
Monna Innominata
the Morning of Eternity
Tadeusz Rozewicz (b1921)
• II. Pigtail [Sing in Dark Times]
George William (A.E.) Russell (1867-1935)
Viktor Rydberg (1828-1895)
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Moonlight Music
Venus’ Lament
William Sharp (1855-1905)
The Valley of Silence
Percy Bysshe Shelly (1792-1822)
Dreams of Thee
To Night
Charles Anthony Silvestri (b1965)
The Long View
What is this light?
Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961)
Remembered Light
Katy Spencer
Harriet Spofford (1835-1921)
Music in the Night
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
To What Shall I Compare Her
Joyce Sutphen (b1949)
Launching into Space
Algernon Swinburne (1837-1909)
There’s Nae Lark
Sarah Teasdale (1884-1923)
Blue Squills
Heaven Full of Stars
I am not yours
• III. Morning [Chartless]
Alfred Tennyson (1809-1872)
There is Sweet Music Here
Ridgely Torrence (1874-1950)
Jean Starr Untermeyer (1888-1970)
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
The Universal
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
• IV. The True Knowledge [The True Knowledge]
William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
• III. A voice to light gave being [Responsorials]
• IV. Break forth [Responsorials]
Lucy [5 Song Cycle]
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
• II. The heavens [Responsorials]
Natum vidimus
The Human Heart
There was a time
• I. Shouting through one valley [Responsorials]
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
The White Birds

I Sing of the Northland
Sweeter Still | A Holiday Carol

Most Used:

Traditional (12)
Biblical (7)
Anonymous (4)

  1. William Wordsworth (10)
  2. Robert Bode (6)
  3. Thomas Hood (4)
  4. Sarah Teasdale (4)
  5. William Blake (3), Dante Alighieri (3), Danielle Barnum (3)
William Wordsworth
  • One thing worth noting is that I do love ‘good’ poetry in English. I don’t think it is a secret that English doesn’t have inherently beautiful sonic qualities they way languages such as French or Italian contains. But there are special ways that English can speak in a poetic setting, and I seem to ‘mostly’ gravitate to poets that wrote in English between 1850 and 1920.
  • I do think that I strongly veer away from post-1923 poems. Honestly…. I’d like to think of myself as a classicist of sorts, but I suspect it may be because it’s just easier to not deal with the copyright issue. So maybe it is just laziness, I’m willing to admit that. But! — If it gets me to set poems with a richer language palette, then so be it. There are some very out of the way poems from 150 years ago that are certainly worth finding and setting (and are pubic). It is good for us all to see them and experience them more.
  • I was surprised, upon reviewing this poetry, that I thought (by memory alone) I had set more of certain poets I note as favorites (like Millay and Hood) than I actually did. Wordsworth and I are deeply connected and I knew it, but I didn’t realize I had set so much Teasdale or Alighieri. I haven’t set other favorites, like Madison Cawein or T.S. Eliot at all (yet). I wasn’t surprised by the ample number of Robert Bode poems. His language and rhythm seems to fit my musical intuition very well — his poetry hearkens back to a seemingly loftier time I think. I also wasn’t at all surprised at how many women poets I have set. There is a certain profile they use in their poetry that I strongly gravitate towards, particular at the turn of thee 20th Century. Excellent wordsmiths they were, certainly.
  • After cursory and brief review, I don’t suspect my poetic profile will change for the next 150 choral/vocal works too much. I haven’t noticed a distinct change in my ideal over the course of the last 10-15 years. I also don’t think the way I find poetry will change either, so the results may be more of the same, which I think some may think is a good thing. The one sneaky thing that may change is my willingness to think ‘outside the box’ for texts. An example of this would be my very recent choices in selecting to set “Jellyfish” by Jarvis Keiley or “The Rainbow” by Vine Colby. These are certainly non-traditional type lyrics to be set for choirs, and I now seem to find myself looking that direction more often. I want to keep shaking things up, I think.

Who knows what’s next.