During our Samling Artist Programme week, composer Jonathan Dove guided us through Man, Woman, Child the duet song-cycle that Samling Institute has commissioned from him to mark our 25th anniversary. The cycle sets six poems by the Australian poet, Judith Wright, and combines spirited singing with moments of great tenderness.
Jonathan told us that generally he has a dialogue with poems so that the words tell him how they want to be sung, and in these simple but profound texts he found that he was being drawn to new sounds. He begins with the piano part, records sketches and listens to them on walks, allowing the melody to emerge gradually. He also explained his process in balancing the clarity of text with artistic expression, with the hope that the audience will understand the words on first hearing.
By writing a duet cycle – a relatively unusual form – Jonathan had to explore the idea of a relationship between the singers, and so a narrative of a man and woman meeting and the birth of a child gradually emerged from the chosen poems. The finished cycle mixes duets with solo songs for each voice, to allow flexibility in performance and will be published in versions for high and low voices by Peters Editions.
Following the premiere in November, the version for mezzo-soprano and baritone will receive its first performance at Marchmont House on Friday 20 May 2022.
Image: Jonathan Dove at Samling Artist Programme, photo credit Mark Pinder