SSATB a cappella
Text: Marjorie Pickthall
Commissioned by the Johnson State College Choirs. Bethany L. Plissey, Director.
OVER the field where the grass is cool, (Follow the road who must !)
With a song for the beech and the brown pool, And the noiseless tread in the dust,
With a laugh for the lazy hours that go, And the folk who pass us by.
(The trees they grow so broad, so low, They shut me from the sky.)
Here be strawberries wild and sweet, (Follow the road who may !)
And here’s a rest for a bairn’s feet And a kiss at the close o’ day.
And here’s a cloud from the shining sea Like a white moth in the night. (On the edge o’ the barley field, may be The stars would show more bright.)
Cut me a flute where the reeds are brown. (Follow the road who will !)
O, I’ll dress you fair in a green gown
And a cloak that is finer still.
Your sleeves shall be o’ the fairies’ lawn, Your shoon as red as the rose.
(Do you think that the wind which wakes at dawn Will bring us a breath o’ the snows ?)
O, the world’s wide, and the world is long. (Follow the road who may !)
And here’s a lilt of the wild song
The Romany pipers play.
And ‘Mine,’ it sings, ‘is the moon’s shield, And the cloak o’ the cloud is mine.’ (Do you think that the lowland clover field Is sweet as the upland pine ?)
The Hillman’s Lass, speaks to many themes. Pickthall’s narrative poem suggests ideas of love, longing and an endless road which seems to sparkle and come alive as it twists through beech forests, fields of cool grass and shining seas and stars.
The folk-like story is set musically with a common melodic idea, heard throughout the song in all voices, it is somewhat extroverted and ‘upbeat’. This ‘simple’ melody is juxtaposed with a slower, more mediative or introverted sections. These inward expressions on the texts relating to following the ‘road’ are moments for reflection and calmness.
I see the two sides of the piece a narrative of the world; a mix of loud and soft, busy and slow. We reach and explore moving down our own path in life. We are lead down roads, valleys, mountains, fields and seas. We also question our path and future, we are unsure if this path we are on is the right one. We search for meaning and connections, this is musically referenced at the end of the work with the canon idea accompanied by a drone, which then ends the song calling back to the opening text and music. The song ends in a lullaby like rocking motion, as if nature has calmed our world into a compassionate resonating space, whole.
Matthew Emery, July 2016, Toronto.