YOUNG NUN SINGING, A


Performed By: Luther College Pike Kor, Sandra Peter, conductor

Instrumentation:
SAA a cappella chorus

Text: Anonymous, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Idea Vilarino

Duration: 6 minutes 30 seconds

Available From:
Oxford University Press, distributed by Goodmusic Publishing

Composer's Notes:
First Program Note:
Three of the texts for this set of four pieces were written between the 13th and late 16th centuries, during a time in which well-born young women of marriageable age were, as daughters, bound by law and culture to the decisions of their fathers and/or guardians.
 
If a daughter was not marriageable, either by circumstance or inclination, few options were available to her.  One option was that she involuntarily join a nunnery and live out the rest of her life cloistered.  Many such women found solace, spirituality, and a haven for their humanitarian and intellectual pursuits by doing so.
Many women bitterly protested their fate, writing poetry and journals which they knew were never to be read, seen, or heard.  The words of these women were in effect silenced to the world outside the cloister’s gates.
 
The fourth text, written in the early 1900’s, echoes the fate of one who is invisible in society.
 
— Libby Larsen, October 2004
 
Second Program Note:
“Get thee to a nunnery,” Hamlet admonished Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1. What was life in the ‘nunnery’ in 1602, the date assigned to Shakespeare’s script?
 
Between the 13th and 16th centuries, convents harbored not only women who chose to live a life of spiritual devotion and service, but also acted as familial harbors for the daughters of nobility and middle class families.  During this period of Western European civilization, young women of these classes were by beholden to their families and/or benefactors and had few choices for their adult lives other than to remain in the family household or marriage to a suitor of equal or better social standing or convent life. Life in a nunnery was governed by specific rules, and it afforded its women the opportunity to study, to conduct themselves intellectually and own and oversee land. Yet, convent life was a life of monastic seclusion. Many young women considered their lives in the convent, although pleasant and literate, less than voluntary, regarding their lives as a form of internment or confinement.
 
A rich body of literature comes to us from the pens of these women including music, chronicles, letters, and poetry.
 
A Young Nun, Singing, is a collection of four poems arranged to tell the story of a young woman, chafing at her parents’ plans for her, faced with the prospects of marriage or a life of seclusion.  Its striking to me that the sentiments of these poems could be freshly minted in the diary of a young woman of today, or heard in any number of popular songs like “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Papa Don’t Preach."
 
— Libby Larsen, April 2004