A fitting tribute to Shakespeare’s tragic heroine.
Voicing: SATB div. a cappella
“Ophelia” was a finalist for the Sorel Medallion in 2016, and this recording from the performance is by Voices of Ascension in New York City, under the direction of Dennis Keene. Complex and rich harmonies deftly match the poeticism and lilt of Shakespeare’s words.
This piece is based on passages from Hamlet (Act IV, Scene 7) in which Queen Gertrude brings news of the death of Ophelia to her brother, Laertes.
There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And mermaid-like a while they bore her up:
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes, (Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s Day,
As one incapable of her own distress, And I a maid at your window,
Or like a creature native and indued To be your Valentine.
Unto that element: but long it could not be You promised me to wed.)
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.
Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
And therefore I forbid my tears:
– William Shakespeare