I’m a bit of a latecomer to Quilter, and indeed, English Art Song in general. But last year, when Allan’s was closing down, I saw a book of Quilter art songs on special, and thought I’d take a look inside. After all, one shouldn’t shun a whole genre without trying it. Then I opened the book, and made a marvellous discovery – Art Song in English is basically really gorgeous poems set to music!
(yes, OK, I’m slow, but it hadn’t occurred to me. I’ve only ever sung art-song in other languages, and hadn’t really registered that the lyrics were written by Real Poets, as opposed to lyricists…)
Anyway, having made this delicious connection, the first thing I did was to take the book along to my singing teacher and basically say “Where do I start?” And she sang me this.
Isn’t it gorgeous? The poem is by Percy Shelley, another poet who was almost certainly stolen by the fairies, or possibly the naiads, as he drowned in a boating accident at a young age. I love the excitement of the music (and Baker’s amazing dexterity in singing this), but to me, it’s the words which are truly transcendent. I would love to sing this at a wedding.
Here’s a tenor version which I think is even more gorgeous than Baker’s, though I haven’t been able to find out who the singer is. Edited to add: Apparently, it’s John Mark Ainsley, an English tenor. Also apparently, I can’t read, because it’s right there on the cover of the recording… I love the feeling and vigour in his performance, and the way you can hear every syllable.
The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single,
All things by a law divine
In one another’s being mingle –
Why not I with thine?
See the mountains kiss high heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdain’d its brother:
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea –
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?