Philip Silvey - composer
Proud Songster - SATB - Philip Silvey

The thrushes sing as the sun is going,
And the finches whistle in ones and pairs,
And as it gets dark loud nightingales
In bushes
Pipe, as they can when April wears,
As if all Time were theirs.

These are brand new birds of twelve months’ growing,
Which a year ago, or less than twain,
No finches were, nor nightingales,
Nor thrushes,
But only particles of grain,
And earth, and air, and rain.

– Thomas Hardy

Proud Songster was commissioned for the Chamber Singers of the Frederick Children's Chorus in Frederick, Maryland, for its 25th anniversary in 2010. I suggested the poetry of Thomas Hardy and the director felt this particular poem suited the occasion well. In her mind, “proud songsters” represented the children she had taught over the two and half decades since she had founded the ensemble. She imagined each child’s unique voice being suggested by the three species of birds in the poem, and she thought of how these children were essentially newcomers to the world, like Hardy’s “brand new birds.”

The flute plays a different motive for each bird (thrushes are said to have the most beautiful call, two paired finches have matching calls, and nightingales are known for their loud and lengthy nocturnal call). Those motives return in retrograde at the end to reflect the perspective of the poet looking back in time. In the last section, the music breaks into pointillistic fragments to suggest the "particles" or, in biblical terms, the "dust" from which the birds originate and ultimately return.


Copyright © 2018 Philip E. Silvey