Composer:   Dominick Argento
Arranger:   NA
Publisher:   Boosey & Hawkes
Edition:   48020909
Voicing:   SATB (div.)
Setting:   a cappella


Michael McGaghie
Macalester College
R&R Chair College & University

Perhaps Argento’s very best octavo, this outstanding work sets Thomas Hardy’s eponymous poem with interpolations from an Isaac Watts hymn. The piece narrates a scene of deceased, ghostly choristers who return to sing over their beloved choirmaster’s grave. Whereas most of the composer’s other choral works end softly and reflectively, this work ends with a big, glorious finish.

The piece skips back and forth between the idioms of English folk dance and hymnody, eventually weaving in a full statement of the tune “Mt. Ephraim.” An effective performance requires attention to Argento’s tempo indications, particularly the alternation of tempi during the double chorus passages towards the end. Singers might experiment with different vocal colors to contrast the narrative, hymn-like, and ghostly sections. Performers might also listen to a good recording of Benjamin Britten’s setting of the same text; Argento’s homage to Britten is evident in comparison.

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