Lydia Kakabadse: The Song of the Shirt – for soprano and piano (NXP079)
This is a sheet music edition of The Song of the Shirt by the composer Lydia Kakabadse.
Sheet music for soprano and piano
Words by Thomas Hood
Duration: 4 minutes
Score: 8 pages
Preface and programme notes
I was 15 years old when I wrote The Song of the Shirt for my younger sister Juliet. I was so moved by Thomas Hood’s inspirational poem that I felt compelled to set it to music. The words are taken from three of Hood’s eleven verses and depict abject poverty, misery and the cruel exploitation of the poor. They conjure up a picture of a woman in rags, worn out by endlessly sewing in filthy, pitiful conditions, appealing to the consciences of men. Both the piano and voice reflect these brutal agonies. The melancholic tone of the words and the monotony of such a wretched existence are characterized by the wide use of minor keys and bare intervals. The Song of the Shirt has been performed at various venues over the years, including Ely Cathedral, St John’s Smith Square, London and Norwich Cathedral. The work has been recorded on the Naxos label and is included in my chamber album The Phantom Listeners.
The piano announces the main theme, which is then taken up by the soprano, sempre espressivo. There is frequent interplay between the two and the distinctive use of quadruplets in 6/8 time and augmented 2nd intervals appear in both parts. The piano’s chordal-type accompaniment in the first and third verses gives way to an ominous basso ostinato - expressed in a chromatic sequence - heralding the second verse. Here, a sense of desperate torment is conveyed by the soprano’s repetition of the same note, sequence of notes and rising diminished 7th arpeggios over an increasingly louder basso ostinato. Succumbing in the third verse to a heart-felt appeal to men with sisters or mothers and wives, the piano brings the song to a mezzo piano close in its upper register.