Twell De Night Is Pas' - (2010)
Paul Laurence Dunbar
for medium voice and piano
All de night long twell de moon goes down,
Lovin’ I set at huh feet,
Den fu’ de long jou’ney back f’om de town,
Ha’d, but de dreams mek it sweet.
All de night long twell de break of de day,
Dreamin’ agin in my sleep,
Mandy comes drivin’ my sorrers away,
Axin’ me, “Wha’ fu’ you weep?”
All de day long twell de sun goes down,
Smilin’, I ben’ to my hoe,
Fu’ dough de weddah git nasty an’ frown,
One place I know I kin go.
All my life long twell de night has pas’
Let de wo’k come ez it will,
So dat I fin’ you, my honey, at las’,
Somewhaih des ovah de hill.
[ 2 pages, circa 3' 15" ]
Paul Laurence Dunbar
The text is found in Dunbar's collection, Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow, 1901. The notion that one may be sustained by a memory as by a promise of return is beautifully summed up in the poet's last gesture, telling us that there is fact is "somewhere over the hill." This common dream is as easily expressed in the iconic "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in the words of Yip Harburg (1896-1981), as well as myriad other texts also tell. This is the same human yearning whether painted in the widely social visions of various political "utopian" philosophies, or in the small and very personal forms as shown in the text above. On the personal level, it is a nourishment for the heart, while on the social level it often is a vision which sometimes refuses to allow that another have a different vision.
The setting is simple, a strophic form with repeat in which the third strophe drifts a moment into the relative major before returning to the tonic minor to conclude its affirmation of "over there." The interior line in the accompaniment is meant to be brought out above the outside voices, its off-beat stress as a rhythmic juxtaposition to the vocal line and simple harmonic changes.
The setting is painted in dynamics noted as mezzo piano and quieter. For this the vocal line might well be colored with "crooning," and the last phrases fade into the quiet, with thought that Ursula Vaughan Williams' lovely line, "where music and silence meet, and both are heard."
The score for Twell De Night Is Pas' is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.
Twell De Night Is Pas'