• SATB a cappella (12 parts)
  • 10 min

Programme Note

Composer’s Note:

I have always been in love with Chanticleer. The first time I heard them sing I was screaming bravo at the top of my lungs for at least 3 minutes and immediately purchased all of their CDs. Their sound is very much ingrained in my ear since I have composed several works for them: Alleluia, Amen, Love Songs, The Rub of Love, and now Purple Syllables. When Music Accord offered me their wonderful commission and asked me to pick an ensemble, I was thrilled, and Chanticleer leapt first to mind; thus the collaboration on Purple Syllables began.

Composing for voice is my first passion in life and as a result the largest part of my catalogue is music for voice: solo voice, small groups of voices, small or large choirs, with and without orchestral or other kinds of accompaniments. For me, the human voice, possibly the most subtle, complex, fragile yet forceful, flexible, seductive, and persuasive carrier of musical ideas and meanings, has always been an inspiration for and influence upon my entire musical thinking. I sing when I compose. I adore reading poems, and cherish the opportunity to set them to music; and I believe that text plus music (1 +1) must equal at least 24. If 1=1 = 2, there was no need, for me, to set the text to music. This 15-minute work sets 7 texts of Emily Dickinson and all the texts are about birds — since a Chanticleer is a bird. But, as usual with Emily Dickinson, poems about birds are also about lots of different things. Her poems are intensely personal, intellectual, introspective and offer a meditation on life, death, and poetic creation; her poems share a close observation of nature as well as consideration of religious and philosophical issues. The music is very immediate, colorful, playful, lyric, elegant and resonant. Purple Syllables, Emily Dickinson Settings, commissioned by Music Accord expressly for Chanticleer is dedicated with admiration and gratitude to Music Accord, Chanticleer and to my Aunt and Uncle, Elly and Jock Elliott.

— Augusta Read Thomas