Interpreting Moravec’s “Songs of Love and War”

Our first blog post of the season comes to you from one of our tenors, Mike Hyatt-Evenson. Mike will be performing one of those solos in Paul Moravec’s “Songs of Love and War”, and he wrote this as he was learning it. As you’ll read, these are powerful works, and we can’t wait to share them with you on October 14th and 15th.

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“Good God this is hard!” was my first impression as I started to learn the Moravec 4th movement, “Always, Always…” The piece begins with no sharps or flats in the key signature, but then he plugs accidentals all over the place (including F flat and C flat, for goodness sake), making it impossible, with my incredibly limited piano skills, to plunk this out on the piano. Why doesn’t he write a freaking E or B instead?! (I need to ask Patrick – I’m certain he knows) Then the key change to six (!!!) sharps! I had to use the “Fat Cows Graze Daily And Eat” just to figure out which ones were sharp. So I relied almost exclusively on the recording to learn the piece.

After a few times going over the piece, it didn’t get easier, but I started to understand it. As in other movements, Moravec is masterfully coloring the excruciating, heart-breaking text. It starts off as a love letter. “Sarah, my love for you is deathless.” He speaks of love’s power like “mighty cables.” Then he starts to go nuts with the accidentals when the soldier expresses the draw of being a soldier and his love of country, how it comes over him “like a strong wind.” You can feel and hear the dissonance in both words and music aided by the crazy accidentals.

I think “deathless” in the first line is foreshadowing the next part of the letter, because here is where it gets heart breaking, beginning with “but something whispers to me.” Here we learn that he has a son, who is perhaps praying for his safe return. Then back to Sarah, that if he does not return, “never forget how much I love you.” After the instrumental interlude, comes the peak of the piece. “If the dead can come back to this earth…I will always be with you” emphasized by the choir singing “Always, always…” Gut wrenching! Then perhaps the most gentle, heart breaking lines of the entire piece. The accompaniment gets suddenly gentle, followed by the beautiful text, “and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it will be my breath. As the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it will be my spirit passing by.” The soldier then finishes by encouraging Sarah not to mourn, because “we will meet again.” Moravec then closes the piece with serenity and the choir singing like angels, “Always.”

All music touches each of us in different ways. As a father and husband, this reminds me of the ‘humanness’ of war. The soldier loves his wife and son, but also his country. All soldiers, of course, have spouses, partners, children, friends, loved ones. I simply cannot comprehend having to make that choice, or having to tell my wife that I would forever only be the breeze upon her cheek, or the cool air on her temple.

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Tickets for our “Requiem for the Living” concerts, in which “Songs of Love and War” will also be performed, are currently on sale, both online and at the door. For more information, take a look at our concert page.