I. In The Still Garden II. St. Valentine's Day III. Will you, nill You IV. Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?
6-voice male a cappella chorus
Commissioned by the King’s Singers
February 14, 2001 by The King's Singers at St. Bartholomew's Church, New York, NY
Libby Larsen Publishing
Four Valentines: A Lover’s Journey is a set of four pieces which chronicle the extraordinarily commonplace yet supremely elegant story of love and valentining. They are settings of three texts by William Shakespeare and on text by James Joyce, published by William Shakespeare and company in 1915. When the concert date for the premiere of our new piece was set for February 14, I began to search for appropriate texts and remembered Ophelia's song from Hamlet “Good morrow! `Tis St. Valentine's Day.” In reading about the texts’ origins I came upon a curious custom practiced in some parts of Great Britain and Italy, whereby before sunrise on St. Valentine’s Day, unmarried women stand by their window, sometimes for hours, watching for a man to pass by. It’s said that the first man they see (or more wisely someone who looks like him) will marry them within a year.
I decided to play with the theme in Four Valentines: A Lover’s Journey. I created four pieces beginning with the poem “Simples” by James Joyce. Set in a moonlit garden, the lover is bedazzled by a young woman, his “bella bionda.” The lover repeats these words to himself over and over again, silently summoning her. The second, quiet piece “Good morrow! `Tis Saint Valentine's Day” takes place at sunrise. In it the lovers meet and undo each other. The third piece is a brief, insistent rhythmic outcry, setting words from the Taming of the Shrew “Will you, nill you, I will marry you.” And finally, “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day” completes Four Valentines: A Lover’s Journey.
This piece is my Valentine to the King's Singers.
Libby Larsen, January 2001
Movement IV. Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day, measure 9, beat 1, bass note should be E-flat.