At Tea

Music and Texts of  GARY BACHLUND

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At Tea - (2003)    

Thomas Hardy

soprano or mezzo soprano and piano

The kettle descants in a cosy drone,
And the young wife looks in her husband's face,
And then at her guest's, and shows in her own
Her sense that she fills an envied place;
And the visiting lady is all abloom,
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 choice,
Till the fates ordained it could not be so....
Betraying nothing in look or voice
The guest sits smiling and sips her tea,
And he throws her a stray glance yearningly.

from Satires of Circumstance, I

[ 4 pages, circa 3' 20" ]

Thomas Hardy

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.


At Tea

8 ½ x 11 format