I was fortunate in being introduced to some of Blake's poems
at an early age. And I remember being quite young---and rather
astonished---when I learnt that Blake was a great artist as well
as a poet!
Later, in choosing to set his poems to music, I was no doubt
stimulated by Britten's wonderful setting of The Sick Rose, in his
Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings.
I can't remember how I came to select these particular poems,
but I did realise that the first three, born of "experience",
needed a different approach from the others, poems of "innocence",
and that the settings were influenced respectively by Britten, and
by Warlock and Vaughan Williams.
The songs were written between July 1955 and January 1956. In
revising them forty years later I was careful to retain the style,
to try and make them as I would have written them at the time
given a little more skill and experience. The vocal lines are
virtually unchanged, and much of the revision entails enharmonic
changes and simplified barring.
To Tirzah (c.1803) comes from Songs of Experience, and
The Land of Dreams is from the Pickering Manuscript of
about the same date. To My Mirtle is found in Blake's
Notebook, compiled about 1789-93. The Shepherd is one of
the Songs of Innocence (1789), and the final two poems come from
Poetical Sketches, a collection of juvenilia published in
---Nigel Butterley, February 1997.
These notes may be freely reproduced in concert
The songs may be presented singly or in any grouping
performers might judge appropriate. In the Mezzo-soprano version
the voice part is notated an octave above that in the original