James Joyce Settings (2013/2021) by Richard Festinger
for soprano and piano

I found these three poems from James Joyce's 1907 collection Chamber Music simply irresistible. The poems are timeless in sentiment, the language almost Shakespearean in its lyricism. Practically Victorian in its modesty, the language and sentiment of Love Wanders There gently unfurls a barely revealed eroticism. Winds of May is as extroverted as Love Wanders There is inward, its depiction of the spume and spray of windswept water suggesting the characteristic figuration of the accompaniment. My dove, my beautiful one conveys an ineffable tenderness, seeming almost as though it might have come from the Song of Songs. The first two songs were originally written for soprano and two guitars. My dove, my beautiful one was added to the set in 2021.

— R. F.

Texts from James Joyce's Chamber Music

Strings in the earth and air
Make music sweet;
Strings by the river where
The willows meet.
There's music along the river
For Love wanders there,
Pale flowers on his mantle,
Dark leaves on his hair.
All softly playing,
With head to the music bent,
And fingers straying
Upon an instrument.

Winds of May, that dance on the sea,
Dancing a ring-around in glee
From furrow to furrow, while overhead
The foam flies up to be garlanded,
In silvery arches spanning the air,
Saw you my true love anywhere?
Welladay! Welladay!
For the winds of May!
Love is unhappy when love is away!

My dove, my beautiful one,
Arise, arise!
The night-dew lies
Upon my lips and eyes.
The odorous winds are weaving
A music of sighs:
Arise, arise,
My dove, my beautiful one!
I wait by the cedar tree,
My sister, my love,
White breast of the dove,
My breast shall be your bed.
The pale dew lies
Like a veil on my head.
My fair one, my fair dove,
Arise, arise!

[from program for March 27, 2023 concert]