A dramatic solo for mezzo soprano complements the sustained choral writing in this sensuous setting of love poetry from the Song of Songs.
Behold, thou art fair was composed in 2010 for Margriet Tindemans and the Medieval Women’s Choir, in celebration of their 20th anniversary season. The text is from Canticle 4 of the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) – in this poetry, a young man describes the beauty of his beloved in dramatic imagery. In writing a 21st century piece for a choir that specializes in Medieval music, I decided to draw upon some sounds which are typical of much Medieval music – such as the use of a sustained drone pitch under a melodic line – and to incorporate those into a modern harmonic palate.
Notes on preparation and performance
The mezzo soprano solo may be sung with great freedom and expressivity.
Song of Songs, Canticle 4: 1 – 7
Behold, thou art fair, my love; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.
Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.
Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.
Thou art all fair, my love.