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The Stolen Child

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  • SATB & six solo voices or chamber choir

SATB & six solo voices or chamber choir

Duration

9 minutes

Year of Composition

2008

Licensing

Boosey & Hawkes

Purchase

Hal Leonard

Note from Composer

The Stolen Child was a joint commission by the National Youth Chorus of Great Britain and The King’s Singers to celebrate their 25th and 40th anniversaries, respectively. They asked me to write a piece that they could perform together, and I thought Yeats’ exquisite poem (written when he was only twenty) would create a perfect dramatic counterpoint between the two groups. The National Youth Choir would represent the voice of the ‘human child’, innocent and naive;  and The King’s Singers would represent the highland faeries of the ‘water and the wild’, seducing the children away from a world full of troubles with the promise of endless revelry and eternal youth.

There are two ways to perform The Stolen Child. The first way, exactly as written, with a male sextet: two counter-tenors, one tenor, two baritones, and one bass. The second is to use a small chamber choir in place of the sextet, and have soloists from this small group perform solo only as indicated in the score; all other lines should be tutti within the chamber choir.

The Stolen Child is lovingly dedicated to my teacher and mentor John Corigliano, on the occasion of his 70th birthday.

The Text

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scare could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he’s going,
The solemn-eyed:
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.

William Butler Yeats, 1865-1939