From Dusk to Starry Night (2015)

for mezzo-soprano and orchestra

Listen to excerpts:

From Dusk, Mov't I. - excerpt
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From Dusk, Mov't II. - excerpt
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From Dusk, Mov't III. - excerpt
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From Dusk, Mov't IV. - excerpt
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From left to right:  Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano, Norman Ryan, Schott, and Pierre Jalbert, composer.  

Instrumentation: 2222 / 2210 / 2 perc. / harp / pno / strings

 

Movements:  

I. The Night In Silence

II. July Midnight
III. Beat! Beat! Drums!

IV. Slumber My Darling

 

Duration: 19 minutes 

 

World Premiere:  Commissioned and premiered by Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano, and the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, David Danzmayr, conductor, on April 23, 2015, Houston, TX.  

 

Program Notes:

 

From Dusk to Starry Night takes as its theme the many meanings and characteristics of “night”. The work contains four songs, each one with its own contrasting character. The first song, The Night In Silence, contains texts of Walt Whitman, references the clear starry night and, in the middle section, the rising moon. The second song is a fast moving scherzo of sorts, from a poem of Amy Lowell, referencing fireflies at midnight. The third song, also from Whitman, alludes to the sounds of war, beating drums and bugles. Though it does not directly refer to night, I thought of this as a kind of apocalyptic nighttime battle scene, full of calamity and intensity. The last song uses the text of a Stephen Foster song, Slumber My Darling. Though its lullaby characteristics remain, the melody and setting is very different.

 

--  Pierre Jalbert

 

 

Text:

 

I. The Night in Silence – from texts of Walt Whitman

 

The night in silence under many a star,

The ocean shore and the husky whispering wave whose voice I know,

And the soul turning to thee O vast and well-veiled death,

And the body gratefully nestling close to thee.

 

Lo, the moon ascending,

Up from the east the silvery round moon,

Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,

Immense and silent moon.

 

This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,

Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,

Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best,

Night, sleep, death and the stars.

 

 

II. July Midnight – Amy Lowell

 

Fireflies flicker in the tops of trees,

Flicker in the lower branches,

Skim along the ground.

Over the moon-white lilies

Is a flashing and ceasing of small, lemon-green stars.

As you lean against me,

Moon-white,

The air all about you

Is slit, and pricked, and pointed with sparkles of lemon-green flame Starting out of a background of vague, blue trees.

 

 

III. Beat! Beat! Drums! – Walt Whitman

 

Beat! beat! drums! – blow! bugles! blow!

Through the windows – through doors – burst like a ruthless force.

Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,

Into the school where the scholar is studying;

Leave not the bridegroom quiet – no happiness must he have now with his bride, Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain,

So fierce you whirr and pound you drums – so shrill you bugles blow.

 

Beat! beat! drums! – blow! bugles! blow!

Over the traffic of cities – over the rumble of wheels in the streets;

Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? no sleepers must sleep in those beds,

No bargainers – bargains by day – no brokers or speculators – would they continue?

Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?

Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?

Then rattle quicker, heavier drums – you bugles wilder blow.

 

Beat! beat! drums! – blow! bugles! blow!

Make no parley – stop for no expostulation,

Mind not the timid – mind not the weeper or prayer,

Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,

Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties,

Make even the trestles to shake the dead where they lie awaiting the hearses,

So strong you thump O terrible drums – so loud you bugles blow.

 

 

IV. Slumber My Darling – Stephen Foster

 

Slumber, my darling, thy mother is near,

Guarding thy dreams from all terror and fear,

Sunlight has pass’d and the twilight has gone,

Slumber, my darling, the night’s coming on.

 

Sweet visions attend thy sleep,

Fondest, dearest to me,

While others their revels keep,

I will watch over thee.

 

Slumber, my darling, till morn’s blushing ray

Brings to the world the glad tidings of day;

Fill the dark void with thy dreamy delight –

Slumber, thy mother will guard thee tonight.

 

Thy pillow shall sacred be

From all outward alarms;

Thou, thou are the world to me

In thine innocent charms.

 

Slumber, my darling, the birds are at rest,

The wandering dews by the flow’rs are caressed,

Slumber, my darling, I’ll wrap thee up warm,

And pray that the angels will shield thee from harm.

 

 
 

© 2016 Pierre Jalbert, From Dusk to Starry Night

Photo:  Julia Jalbert