soprano or mezzo soprano and piano
The kettle descants in a cosy drone,
And the young wife looks in her
And then at her guest's, and shows in her own
sense that she fills an envied place;
And the visiting lady is all
And says there was never so sweet a room.
And the happy
young housewife does not know
That the woman beside her was first his
Till the fates ordained it could not be so....
nothing in look or voice
The guest sits smiling and sips her tea,
he throws her a stray glance yearningly.
from Satires of Circumstance, I
[ 4 pages, circa 3' 20" ]
This strange vignette
shows Hardy's storytelling at its most compact, for a scene is set, and only
enough about the characters and their relationships to one another is given
to flesh out the scene. And yet it is told in its disciplined rhyme scheme,
such that this is both a rigorously constructed poem and dramatic scena
at the same time.
The setting of this text sets a tonal scene in which the harmonic region is
uncertain; this same set of gestures provides a curtain to the second half
of the setting. Beginning in a keyless abstract, the first written tonality
is spelled in a B major key signature though the tonal domains vary within
this, while the last is in the "other" and darker spelling of A flat minor.
The score for At Tea is available as a free PDF download, though any
major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without
prior arrangement with the poet and composer. Click on the graphic below for
this piano-vocal score.
8 ½ x 11 format