Three Shakespeare Songs

for SSAATTBB choir, 3 soprano soli
6 mins.

1. Hark! Hark! The lark
2. Where the bee sucks
3. Full fathom five

First performed at a SPNM concert at St John’s, Smith Square, London, on 16th February 1971 by the Ambrosian Singers under Andrew Davis.

Programme note

The Three Shakespeare Songs were written in 1969, when I was a postgraduate student at the Royal Academy of Music in London. My composition teacher at the time was Nicholas Maw. His influence upon me remained strong for some years, and is clearly audible in these songs, which were my first attempt at choral writing. The second,  Where the bee sucks, had won a composition prize and a cheque for £300 – a princely sum at the time. Flushed by success, I wrote another three songs, making a set of four in all. This was first performed by the Ambrosian Singers under Andrew Davis at a Society for the Promotion of New Music concert at St John’s, Smith Square, London on 16th February 1971. However, the last song, a setting of Ye spotted snakes with double tongue, struck me as being too derivative of Britten (whose A charm of lullabies I had recently been performing) to justify its continued existence; and after the first performance I cut it out.

Giles Swayne 2008


Swayne: Choral Works
Stephen Cleobury (conductor)
BBC Singers
David Goode (organ)
Philippa Davies (flute)
Classics: COLL15312
Three Shakespeare songs
Magnificat I
Missa Tiburtina
Nunc dimittis I
O magnum mysterium
Veni creator II
The Tiger
Ophelia drowning
Missa brevissima