Cloths of Heaven

 

Canadian Eleanor Daley is another of our favorite composers who is particularly well known for her expressive setting of text. She was interviewed for the ACDA Choral Journal in July of 2011: “For me, the music comes from the text: therefore it makes sense for me to try to enhance the text as fully as possible, by using  as much text painting as possible.” Ms. Daley’s lovely setting of William Butler Yeats’ poem The Cloths of Heaven is no exception to this expressive style of composition, and we can clearly hear the poet’s voice in the music.

 

The piece opens with the sopranos alone singing the first verse “Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, enwrought with golden and silver light….I would spread the cloths under your feet” and this same text is sung again with all the voices ascending and descending in triads with occasional dissonances. A dreamlike piano interlude brings us to the closing section and perhaps a bit of down to earth reality for the speaker – “But I, being poor, have only my dreams….tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” Ms. Daley effects a complete change of music at this point – tempo, harmony and time signature – to create a very different feeling while still holding on to dreamlike possibilities.