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The most popular song cycle? Why?

Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)

Last week I mentioned 'Ride by Nights'. Last week William Colman chose to sing 'Ghosts at a masterclass in Somerset. Andrew Irwin has requested that we at Caradoc Press organise a recording of these settings accompanied by Iain Burnside. (We are working on funding, watch this space). Why did Elaine set them and why are they so powerful?

Here are a few quotes about this poet from the composer given in the context of a pre-performance talk about her music and its inspiration.

“Walter de la Mare’s poetry is magical to set, as many composers have found. He had an extraordinary sense of atmosphere and as one friend wrote to him said, ‘you never fail to make me see the familiar in a new, strange, delightful way. You rejuvenate experience for me as no other living writer does.’ De la Mare felt and could convey with such power things that were mysterious and ominous".

The first version of this set contained seven songs with piano and clarinet. Later she added an eighth song, “The Raven’s Tomb,” that she said took her over twenty years to find the right notes for the B section. The Eight de la Mare Songs come in other versions including an arrangement for string quartet, clarinet and piano as well as for strings.

De la Mare’s poetry and stories have captured the imagination of almost a hundred composers and I am still discovering new settings of the poem “Silver” which is the one poem that involved me in all of this in the first place! Some composers who have set “Silver”: John Duke, Benjamin Britten, Anthony Armstrong Gibbs and Elaine’s composition teacher, Sir Lennox Berkeley.

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