Cradle Song

Two mixed choirs; 10 minutes

I was commissioned by Soundstreams to write a piece for double choir that would feature the Elmer Iseler Singers and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. I chose to set A Cradle Song by Blake because it nicely juxtaposes the soft nature of a lullaby with obvious, but indirect references to Christ's death. I then decided to punctuate certain sentences with a few lines from common latin motets.

Throughout much of the piece, one of the choirs creates a "bed" of sound while the other choir becomes the focus. By the fifth verse, "Sleep, sleep...", the two choirs begin to pass the "bed" back and forth while the sound builds toward "Holy image".

(Full text below)

Premiered November 9, 2003 at the Metropolitan United Church, Toronto.

Elmer Iseler Singers,
Lydia Adams, director

Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir,
Paul Hillier, director
Recorded excerpt

Commissioned by SoundStreams Canada with grants from the Laidlaw Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts
laidlaw_logo CCA

A Cradle Song

from Songs of Innocence, 1789
William Blake

Sweet dreams, form a shade
O'er my lovely infant’s head;
Sweet dreams of pleasant streams
By happy, silent, moony beams.

Sweet sleep, with soft down
Weave thy brows an infant crown.
Sweet sleep, Angel mild,
Hover o'er my happy child.

Sweet smiles, in the night,
Hover over my delight;
Sweet smiles, Mother’s smiles,
All the livelong night beguiles.

Sweet moans, dovelike sighs,
Chase not slumber from thy eyes.
Sweet moans, sweeter smiles,
All the dovelike moans beguiles.

Sleep, sleep, happy child,
All creation slept and smil'd;
Sleep, sleep, happy sleep,
While o'er thee thy mother weep.

[Fac me tecum pie flere]

"Make me loveingly weep with you"
-from Stabat Mater
Sweet babe, in thy face
Holy image I can trace.
Sweet babe, once like thee,
Thy maker lay and wept for me.

Wept for me, for thee, for all,
When He was an in-fant small.
Thou his image ever see,
Heavenly face that smiles on thee.

Smiles on thee, on me, on all;
Who became an infant small.

[Vere languores nostros, ipse tultit, "Truly he alone has borne our weaknesses,
et dolores nostros, ipse portavit.] and he himself has carried our sorrows."
Infant smiles are his own smiles; -from Nocturn of Matins for Maundy Thursday
Heaven and earth to peace beguiles.
[Pax Nobis]
"Peace be unto you"