“Silent Noon” is an art song by British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, published in 1903 as part of The House of Life song cycle. The second piece in the song cycle, “Silent Noon” quickly became the most popular song of the work, and was published separately the following year. In The House of Life, Vaughan Williams sets the poetry of the eponymous collection by English poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Written as Petrarchan sonnets, the poems deal with themes of love, loss, and beauty.
This song was definitely one of my favourites to sing. The cascading melodies and evocative lyrics give a singer lots to sink her teeth into. Centring around themes of the beauty of nature, I felt the song moving through three different scenes in the lifespan of a couple. In the first verse, I imagined two lovers languidly lying in the grass, staring at the sky through blossoming trees as storm clouds begins to gather, with endless time and not a care in the world. The second verse I interpreted as a more established, “nested” couple taking in the beauty and quiet of their life together. In the third verse, I imagined an older couple appreciating every hour they have left together. The last verse brings back the opening melody, reinforcing the immortality of love in the face of death.
The intermittent tempo changes, mid-song recitative, and dramatic pauses definitely made “Silent Noon” one of the tougher songs to sing to a backing track. However, I think it speaks to the strength of Vaughan Williams’ lyrical composing that these moments felt so intuitive in their timing. And of course to the talent of my accompanist, Mark McDowell!
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