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Thea Musgrave

Publisher: Novello & Co

Nurse's Songs of innocence and experience (2013)
A 2013 Royal Philharmonic Society / Britten-Pears Foundation commission to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten and the bicentenary of the foundation of the Royal Philharmonic Society.
Text Writer
William Blake
Novello & Co Ltd
Chorus a cappella / Chorus plus 1 instrument
Year Composed
4 Minutes
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Programme Note
Thea Musgrave Nurse's Songs of innocence and experience (2013)
Dedicated to the memory of Richard Rodney Bennett.

When the voices of children are heard on the green,
And laughing is heard on the hill,
My heart is at rest within my breast,
And everything else is still.

“Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
And the dews of night arise;
Come, come, leave off play, and let us away,
Till the morning appears in the skies.”

“No, no, let us play, for it is yet day,
And we cannot go to sleep;
Besides, in the sky the little birds fly,
And the hills are all covered with sheep.”

Well, well, go and play till the light fades away,
And then go home to bed.”
The little ones leaped, and shouted, and laughed,
And all the hills echoed.


When voices of children are heard on the green,
And whisperings are in the dale,
The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind,
My face turns green and pale.

Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
And the dews of night arise;
Your spring and your day are wasted in play,
And your winter and night in disguise.

What captivated me was the contrast between the innocence and indeed the experience of the Nurse in these two poems. I therefore chose a soprano soloist to portray the “innocent” Nurse and an alto for the “experienced” nurse.

What is also important is the dialogue between the two Nurses and the children. In the second song the "experienced" Nurse carries the whole of the second verse. So, in order to give the children a presence I “borrowed” some lines from the first poem for the children to sing: “We cannot go to sleep”. It is like an echo (“and all the hills echoed”) from the end of the first poem.


  • Ensemble
    Music Sales Singers
    David Hill
    Choral Sampler 2013:
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