Kenneth Leighton: Columba Mea, Op. 78
Composed mainly during the summer of 1978, and commissioned by the John Currie Singers (with Arts Council funds) this work was first performed in Glasgow in early 1979, and has since been given in Canada and the USA. It is a setting of quite large sections of the Song of Songs and the authorised version was chosen not because of its accuracy, which is often doubtful, but because of the beauty of the language and the power of its associations.
The bride and bridegroom are represented in two major solo parts for contralto and tenor and the whole design is divided into six distinct sections:
1. 'Let him kiss me…' - a slow introductory setting for women only and mostly soloistic. The opening movement on celesta is of crucial importance in the musical argument.
2. 'I am black…' - a short aria for contralto solo accompanied mainly by solo viola and harpsichord.
3. 'Behold, thou art fair my love…' - a more fast-moving dialogue between the men and the women together with the two soloists.
4. 'The voice of my beloved…' - a jubilant scherzo in which the dialogue gathers energy from the image of 'leaping on the mountains'.
5. 'My beloved is mine and I am his…' - an aria for contralto solo with an important obligato for solo cello. This culminates with the choral entry illustrating the appearance of the bridegroom.
6. 'How beautiful are thy feet…' - a second aria for the solo tenor with choral interjections of 'Set me as a seal upon thine heart'.
The latter element eventually culminates in a slow unaccompanied chorale.
© Kenneth Leighton