FEATHER-SMALL AND STILL for mezzo-soprano and piano (2010)
Duration: 5 mins
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Feather-Small and Still was commissioned by Tower Poetry in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Christopher Tower Poetry Prizes, the UK’s most valuable prize for young poets. The poem it takes as Its text, by Sophie Stephenson-Wright, was commended in the 2009 competition.
Sophie’s poem is a villanelle: a long-established form in which either the first or third lines of the first stanza (or both) is subsequently repeated as the last line of each of the following five. Here, these set out the poem’s subject: ‘We saw a nightjar on the windowsill’ / ‘the heart was broken, feather-small and still’. This frequent verbal repetition is only partly reflected in my musical setting, in which each appearance of these lines carries echoes of previous ones, but also in at least some respect works against the expectations they have come to create.