My love is one and only without fear
- Performer(s) Jorell Williams, baritone
In 2003, browsing the shelves of poetry at one of my favorite book stores, I came across a volume of ancient Egyptian love poems, translated into English by John L. Foster. I took the book off the shelf and opened it. As it happens, though not nearly as often as I wish it would, the poems literally sang off the page. Some were sensual, some were quite funny, all of them were as relevant to today as they were to 1300 BC when they were created. I knew that I wanted to work with these poems as much and as often as I could. An opportunity presented itself in a commission from Lotte Lehmann Foundation, for which I set I love you through the daytimes. Ever since then I’ve been hungry to make a grouping of them. Pharaoh Songs, for bass/baritone and piano, sets five more of the poems. I created a loose, fantasized narrative which exists solely in the mind of the lover. Desire, fantasy, tension, frustration, reunion and fulfillment are projected on the object of the lover’s desire.
My thanks to Mark Bilyeu and Clara Osowski for giving me the opportunity to create Pharaoh Songs, and to Alan Dunbar for his willingness to travel back in time (way back) to inhabit the poems and become love-lorn in ancient Egypt.