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I originally wrote Bahnhofstrasse as part of a cycle of ten art songs for solo voice that I adapted from my favorite poems by James Joyce. I later arranged three of those settings (Night Piece, Strings in the Earth and Air, and Bahnhofstrasse) for mixed chorus and piano for my dear friend Thomas Colohan, artistic director of the Washington Master Chorale. They made their premiere on October 27, 2019 at the Washington Master Chorale's 10th Anniversary Season opening concert in Washington, DC.
Bahnhofstrasse is an existential piece about the loss of youth. In 1917, James Joyce suffered a sudden and painful attack of lumbago while in the posh Bahnhofstrasse district of Zurich, Switzerland. His condition was compounded by increasing blindness as a result of glaucoma.
My setting underscores Joyce’s angst as he discovers youth is fleeting. Yet, being middle-aged, he realizes he’s not old enough to benefit from the "old heart's wisdom" that comes in the autumn of life. The four vocal lines float wistfully over a minimalist accompaniment that reiterates a simple, eerie motif.
Bahnhofstrasse is part my choral suite, Three Choral Songs on James Joyce.
It is also available in high voice (soprano or tenor) and medium voice (mezzo-soprano or baritone) versions and is part of my complete collection of art songs with texts by James Joyce: Ten Poems of James Joyce .
The eyes that mock me sign the way
Whereto I pass at eve of day.
Grey way whose violet signals are
The trysting and the twining star.
Ah star of evil! star of pain!
Highhearted youth comes not again.
Nor old heart's wisdom yet to know
The signs that mock me as I go.
James Joyce, 1882 - 1941
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