Works

Lullaby

for SSAATTBB a cappella


Lullaby

Details

Theme
Secular
Setting
SSAATTBB a cappella
Composed
London, 2016
Performed
Lumen Chamber Choir, 2018, dir. Benjamin Thiele-Long
The Fourth Choir, 2018, dir. Dominic Ellis-Peckham
Recorded
Lumen de Lumine, 2018, Lumen Chamber Choir, dir. Benjamin Thiele-Long, Convivium Records
Author of the text
W.H. Auden
Copyright of the text
Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd. Copyright © 1940. All Rights Reserved.
Language
English
Duration
6 m 40 s
Downloads
Preview score

Listen

About the poem

Lullaby is a love poem by W.H. Auden, addressed to the speaker’s sleeping lover. It speaks of the fleeting nature of youth, the imperfections of humanity, and the hardships of life and love. Although much of the imagery appears bleak, it is unapologetic and realist. Ultimately, a tender and protective love is felt throughout, with which the speaker seeks to guard his lover from the troubles of the world, and to love him despite both of their human frailties.

About the poet

Wystan Hugh Auden (1907–1973) is considered one of the finest poets of the 20th century, with an extraordinary breadth of poetic styles, forms and subject matters found in his works. He was born in England and lived in Germany and the United States. He was a long-time friend and collaborator, and sometime lover of Christopher Isherwood.

He was awarded the National Medal for Literature in the United States in 1967, with the selection committee declaring that his poetry “has illuminated our lives and times with grace, wit and vitality. His work, branded by the moral and ideological fires of our age, breathes with eloquence, perception and intellectual power.”

Composer’s note

The 54 time signature is not to be taken mechanically. The piece should flow at a spoken pace, with a calm rubato, where minims are generally more broad and spacious, and groups of adjacent crotchets are given a slight accelerando.

Some caesuras are marked explicitly, but other phrases may naturally call for a short breathing space or gentle ritardando, lest the next line feel too rushed. Likewise, there should be no breaths between certain phrases where the flow of the text would be interrupted.

In the second verse (between figures A and B), the first Soprano part is a descant which should not be louder than the melody in the second Soprano part.


Lullaby, by W.H. Auden

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit’s carnal ecstasy.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell,
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreaded cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of welcome show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find the mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness find you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.

Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd. Copyright © 1940. All Rights Reserved.


Lumen de Lumine album cover

I am thrilled to announce the launch of the album, Lumen de Lumine, by Lumen, a chamber choir in London.
This is the result of a fantastic crowdfunded project which aims to promote the work of new and emerging choral composers.

The album features my piece, Lullaby, a setting of a poem by W.H. Auden.

Lumen de Lumine is out now
on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon,
Google Play, and Deezer,
and is available from Convivium Records.


Lullaby was featured on BBC Radio 3’s
In Tune programme on 12 October 2018.


Kit Grahame talks about the inspiration behind Lullaby.


Listen to Lullaby on Spotify.