Program Notes from the composer:
Although his short life — he was born in 1844 and died in 1889 — was lived entirely during the reign of Queen Victoria, English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins has been adopted, it now appears, by the 20th and 21st centuries. A “modern” poet before there was a modern period, Hopkins has been discovered as a writer of profound and complex thought expressed in a rich and intense language. Educated at Oxford, Hopkins entered the Roman Catholic Church in 1866 and was ordained a priest in 1877. Because he refused permission for the publication of his work during his lifetime, his collected poems did not appear in print until 1918 and then only through the efforts of his friend, poet Robert Bridges.
The five texts which I chose to set reveal some of the range of Hopkins’ thought, from the gentle, meditative “The Habit of Perfection,” to the coarseness of good-hearted day-laborer Tom in “Tom’s Garland,” the admiring paean to England’s greatest composer Henry Purcell, the playful exuberance of “Pied Beauty,” and, finally, the loving acceptance expressed in “Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord.” These texts were chosen not only because and how they express my own thoughts and emotions but also because of the way in which the words “sing.” The purpose of my music, I felt while composing it, was to allow them to take flight. If Henry Purcell had been my teacher — and in a very real sense he has been — he would have instructed me to obey not just the meanings of the words but also their very sounds and rhythms and to choose those musical materials appropriate to each phrase of the poetry, sometimes gentle, at other times harsh.
1. The Habit of Perfection
2. Tom’s Garland
3. Henry Purcell
4. Pied Beauty
5. Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord