Three Whitman Songs is, oddly enough, a set of three songs to texts by Walt Whitman for contralto and piano. The first and last songs of the set – ‘Hast never come to thee an hour’ and ‘This is thy hour’ – are for both performers, while the second song, ‘Come forward, o my soul’ is for unaccompanied voice and is followed by a brief interlude for solo piano.
The vocal range this work is intended for is perhaps a little lower than average – between them the songs cover a compass from E-flat at the top of the treble stave, down to F below middle C. While this is an unusual range, it happens to be that of the composer (for once I wanted to write something I could sing without transposing it down a fourth!)
The texts are as follows:
Hast never come to thee an hour
Edited from Hast never come to thee an hour
Hast never come to thee an hour,
A sudden gleam, divine, precipitating,
bursting all these bubbles, fashions, wealth.
Those eager business aims, books, politics, art, amours,
To utter nothingness.
Come forward, O my soul
Extracted from Proud Music of the Storm
Come forward, O my soul, and let the rest retire,
Listen, lost not, it is toward thee they tend,
Parting the midnight, entering my slumber chamber,
For thee they sing and dance O soul.
This is thy hour
Edited from A Clear Midnight
This is thy hour, o soul, [thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,]
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best.
Night, sleep, death and the stars