Sydney Chamber Choir under its director Sam Allchurch, has released its new recording of Heather Percy’s Three Night Songs. Commissioned by ABC Classic, this new work captures images of night from different perspectives, through the poetry of past and contemporary female poets.
The first movement, Holy Innocents, is a gently lilting lullaby, setting a text by the beloved English Romantic poet Christina Rossetti in which angels keep watch over a drowsing infant, protecting it from ‘snare and sorrow’.
The second movement, Pink Swallows Blue, captures a sense of wonder in watching the slowly changing colours of the sunset, ‘waiting for our dreams’. In this movement, poetry by the award-winning Melbourne poet Emilie Zoey Baker is framed by chant-like passages evoking eternity: ‘Before God, before time, there was only the sky.’
For the final movement, Hymn to the Evening, Heather created a collage of lines from poems by Phyllis Wheatley (the first African-American author of a published book of poetry, in 1773), Pulitzer Prize-winning American lyric poet Sara Teasdale, 19th-century poet and activist Emma Lazarus and, once again, Christina Rossetti. The central image is of flowers closing their petals one by one, caressed by the moonlight as they move to utter stillness.
Heather Percy is a Canberra-based composer with a particular affinity for choral music, drawing on her own extensive experience as a director of choirs and music educator. She has written for many of Australia’s leading vocal ensembles including The Song Company, Brisbane Chamber Choir, Young Voices of Melbourne and Adelaide Conservatorium Chorale.