Week 29: Friday, October 5, 2018
“The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by Eleanor Daley
Text by W. B. Yeats
This piece was part of the repertoire for one of the very first festival choirs I conducted. I didn’t select the music for that event – it was already chosen for me by the organizers. Some of the pieces I had heard or conducted before, but this one was new to me. I am forever grateful to that festival choir and those organizers for introducing me to “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by Eleanor Daley.
Daley’s setting has segments in unison, SA, and SSA. For the non-unison sections, nearly everything is homophonic. There are only one or two measures where the voices sing different rhythms or have separate entrances. For the places where there are two or three harmony parts, the phrases tend to start in unison and then split off, which can be helpful for those new to harmony. The piano often directly supports the vocal lines too.
From a literacy perspective, what kind of ensemble might benefit from programming this selection?
- If your group sings mostly unison or melody+harmony music, this could be your challenge piece, pushing singers to three harmony parts for small accessible bits at a time.
- If you have a group that is already good at SSA homophony, this could be a quick read – an “easy” add to the program, as it were. Though, there are so many other concepts you can reinforce using this piece, I hesitate to call is “easy.”
- For a group just learning solfege, this piece can help actively connect literacy skill/drill to real music. The unison sections (m6-24 & m52-64) are all diatonic, all solfege-able, and use only basic rhythms. So, they could certainly be learned successfully by a group with introductory-level skills.
- For an ensemble with more advanced literacy skills, this is a piece with minimal difficulty. There are only two altered pitches used – si and di – so the whole piece can likely be sight-read or learned individually outside of rehearsal.
In addition to reinforcing multiple components of literacy, Daley’s setting also provides ample opportunity to work on other musical concepts. Breathing/phrasing, vowel shape, consonant alliteration/diction, and word stress are just a few of these ideas. The unison sections in particular have long flowing phrases in comfortable ranges – a gorgeous way to develop an ensemble’s tone or work on unifying vowels.
Yeats’ poetry is from a different century, and yet still feels relatable to singers of all ages. His words craft the image of an idyllic paradise – a quiet, peaceful escape from the noise of the world. You can’t help but be drawn into the calmness and the tranquility of his imagery.
For overscheduled high school students who are caught up in the constant bustle of life, for community choir members struggling to navigate a balance between work and home, or for audience members pulled in a hundred different directions, this selection can be a chance to breathe and relax. It is a lush, beautiful elegant reminder to just “be.”
|Title:||The Lake Isle of Innisfree|
|Date of Composition:||2002|
|Date of Text:||1888|
|Subject(s), Genre:||Nature, solitude, peace, beauty, sanctuary|
|Listed Voicing:||“Upper Voices”|
|Voicing Details:||Unison, SA, SSA|
|Ranges:||S1: Bb3-Gb5 |
|Dedication:||For St. Mary’s Children’s Choir, Ontario Canada, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, June 2001. Eileen Baldwin, conductor|
|Publisher:||Oxford University Press|
|Further descriptions and details, including program notes, audio, perusal score, and purchasing: |
Until next week!
Dr. Shelbie Wahl-Fouts is associate professor of music, Director of Choral Activities, and music department chair at Hollins University, a women’s college in Roanoke, Virginia.