Five Poems of Stevie Smith

for soprano and piano

Rob Keeley

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for soprano and piano

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Composer Rob Keeley
Year of Composition 2000
Duration -
ISMN 9790570681006



Categories (all composers) , ,
Catalogue ID ce-rk1fpss1


Like so many composers, I was drawn to Stevie Smith’s poetry because of its clarity and apparent simplicity: many of her poems were indeed meant to be sung (usually to hymn tunes), and her ability to express the deepest thoughts in the most touching and transparent language is a gift to a composer. My approach to song writing is uncomplicated: in these poems I enjoy Stevie’s word repetitions and preference for monosyllables and plain speaking: I seek simply to give ‘natural’ expression to (how I understand) the meaning of the words.

The five poems are:

1. Avondale: a fresh, cheerful, ingenuous and spring-like opening song evoking the songs of birds and the cries of children in a north London suburban street (Avondale Road in Palmers Green where Stevie lived for much of her life.).

2. La Gretchen de nos jours, a lament for unrequited (or at least frustrated) love and inevitable regret: perhaps about lost religious faith?

3. Le singe qui swing: a monkey at midnight on a garden swing, treated as if it were most natural thing in the world.

4. Tender only to One, a childish-seeming ‘counting game’ (with a typically ‘Stevian’ sting in the tail).

5. Will Ever? I’m not entirely sure I fully understand this poem, but I have heard and set it as a description of a storm-tossed, forever-rotating world forever rotating to eternity, oblivious of mankind.