Thursday, March 22, 2012

Invictus: 5 Henley Songs

These songs will receive their premiƩre performance by tenor Bud Roach and pianist Erica Reiman on Sun. March 15, 2012 at 3 P.M. at Central Presbyterian Church in Hamilton.

I encountered 2 of the poems Invictus and I am the Reaper in a collection of Victorian Poetry and was struck by how  modern sounding and straightforward was the the verse at a time when many English language poets were still employing convoluted grammar, thee, thou, and thine, and pastoral imagery in the manner of the Jacobeans.

I sought out more poems by this author (William Ernest Henley) and chose five which are contrasting in mood and form. Henley was an extraordinary figure; poet, newspaper editor, lifelong friend of Robert Louis Stevenson and (his foot amputated as a result of tuberculosis) the inspiration for Long John Silver!

These songs were written over a period of several years, all of them before the recent notoriety of the poem Invictus as a result of the film of the same name.

I tailored the musical vocabulary to fit the poetry. As a result the songs sound rather romantic compared to my other recent song cycles, Five Snow Songs (Archibald Lampman) and Six Zen Lyrics (various poets in English translations). Each of the songs was written in a distinc style to reflect the poet's mood. Invictus is powerful and expository. The Rain and the Wind is stormy. Madame Life's is cynical and hints at the music hall, Between the Dusk is languid and romantic. I am the Reaper is majestic, almost monumental.

Although written for a male singer there's nothing in the poetry to preclude a woman from singing them. They are available in High and Medium keys c/o the composer.


  1. Your songs are always strongly rooted in both text and harmony and yet also have a lyrical melody that is most suited to vocalism. I am looking forward to this performance!

  2. Below you will understand what is important, the idea provides one of the links with an exciting site: mp3 downloader

  3. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info. Sahubs Music