Lonely Hearts (Duo song cycle)
Duo song cycle for soprano, baritone and piano
Text: Wendy Cope, from Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis and Serious Concerns.
Premiere—2008, by Sara Williamson Kantor, Lawrence Weller and Claudia Chen, Minneapolis, MN.
- A Simple Wish (S & B)
- The expense of spirits (B)
- The Uncertainty of the Poet (S & B)
- A Serious Person (S)
- Reading Scheme (S & B)
- Advertisement (B)
- Giving Up Smoking (S)
- The Reading (S & B)
- The Orange (S & B)
In July 2007 I found a little book of poems by Wendy Cope in a bookstore in Aberaeron, Wales. Born near London in 1945, Cope was a primary school teacher before going freelance in 1986. She achieved recognition right away, receiving a Cholmondeley Award and the Braude Award for Light Verse by the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1995. She is now a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Cope’s poems are direct, concise and above all, funny. Her formal verse catches the most casual contemporary detail. She looks at the world with the eyes of a child, but then the child speaks in Dorothy Parker’s voice. And her wit spares no one.
The selection here is my own. The poems themselves are transparent, but you might like to know that “A Simple Wish,” like “Reading Scheme,” is written in an old Italian form called villanelle4. “The Uncertainty of the Poet” uses only ten different words. I used a kind of “serial” technique in setting it, assigning a sonority—a chord, rhythm, pitch, even a trill—to each word, then letting the sequences take their course. Among many references, you’ll recognize tango and faux-Beethoven. Tesco’s® is a British retail chain like Target®—but they sell wine.
Lonely Hearts is dedicated to Sara Williamson Kantor, Lawrence Weller and Claudia Chen.
“I very much enjoyed listening to the songs. I like the way you’ve managed to bring out the humour in my poems—it’s great to hear the audience laughing. I like all your settings, but I think my favourite is The Uncertainly of the Poet.” Wendy Cope, email to the composer, 2009