In preparation for a sequel to Plain Truths, my song cycle for baritone and string quartet, I’ve worked an optional chorus into the last song of the original cycle (first page to the left, MIDI audio excerpt below). “Spirit of Freedom” is the text by the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, and it seemed to desire a choral treatment from the start, especially with the large-breathed tune fit to it.
The Newburyport Chamber Music Festival has commissioned both pieces, and wanted to add a chorus to the new cycle, so I thought I’d get my feet wet this way.
It’s fun, if daunting, to add music to something that’s already completed. I decided not to change one note of the original. It also was enlightening to pick sounds out of the accompaniment from which to springboard the choir. They were musical gestures I knew as background but which took on different significance as engines of text.
Now, to compose the new cycle. Plain Truths (as the new one will, this has either string quartet or piano accompaniment) sets words by authors who had lived in Newburyport, Massachusetts during the 18th and 19th centuries. The new work will set words by contemporary, regular folks reminiscing about growing up there. Plainer Truths? Not sure.