Hermit Songs

ENS.2018.5 | 16′
Samuel Barber, orch. Eric Shanfield
Solo Voice, Orchestra:
2.(=Picc).2(CA).2(=BClar).2- (min.)


I. At Saint Patrick’s Purgatory

II. Church Bell at Night

III. St. Ita’s Vision

IV. The Heavenly Banquet

V. The Crucifixion

VI. Sea-Snatch

VII. Promiscuity

VIII. The Monk and His Cat

IX. The Praises of God

X. The Desire for Hermitage

Composed by Samuel Barber in 1953, Hermit Songs is one of my favorite song cycles and to me one of the finest of the twentieth century, an American Dichterliebe. Comprising ten settings of poems written by Irish monks between the 8th and 13th centuries, Barber responds to these brief, witty, tender, and sometimes surprisingly bleak texts with a wide range of emotions, from the bright and cheerful to stark and introspective. My orchestration emerges from the sound world of Barber’s orchestral music before expanding to embrace everything from minimalism to film music. I have tried to be faithful to the composer’s conception of the work while simultaneously enriching the accompaniment with colorful orchestral textures and exotic timbres. This orchestration was completed in October 2018 for a medium orchestra with solo voice, and lasts about sixteen minutes.