Spring, the Sweet Spring

  • Composer: Eriks Esenvalds 
  • Publisher: Musica Baltica
  • Cat No: MB 1384
  • Canadian Work: No
  • Duration: 4:00
  • Sample Track:

Conductor Notes:

For choir and tuned wine glasses.

This piece fascinated our audiences in both Vancouver and Victoria with its inclusion of bird sounds and tuned wine glasses that emerge from the choral texture here and there. In some ways, it is very simple to sing (not difficult intervals, moderate tessitura, straightforward harmonies, a fair amount of repetition, could easily be memorized), but I did find it very challenging to prepare and rehearse. It doesn’t look complicated, but the singers are helpless to know what to do until you give very specific instructions – almost to every singer by name. Assign soloists (3 sops who can also sing the whole choir part), 10 water-glass players (some of whom can also do bird calls…), people to do the bird calls, and lastly whoever is left has to make a balanced choir. Be very detailed in your preparation. Early on, I took 10 minutes of rehearsal with the whole group, auditioning everyone who wanted to demonstrate their best bird calls (we decided on woodland birds only – no loons or seagulls – and got a variety from owls to chickadees). It was fun! Then I did a lot of homework before the next rehearsal when I told singers exactly which bar to start their bird call on, as I wanted the texture to build and recede steadily and have distinctive calls to start and end. The single most important thing if you are going to do this piece (or anything with tuned water glasses) is to have a “team captain” who takes care of finding the glasses that can make the right pitches, setting them up and tuning them, etc). The players stood within the choir and sang as well as playing. I didn’t conduct the last page – just gave numbered cues 1-5.


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[Apologies to Ēriks Ešenvalds, whose name is correctly spelled like this, but our website didn’t sort well with the special characters.]

poem by THOMAS NASHE (1567- c. 1601)

Spring, the sweet spring, is the year’s pleasant king,
Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,
Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The palm and may make country houses gay,
Lambs frisk and play, the shepherds pipe all day,
And we hear aye birds tune this merry lay:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet,
Young lovers meet, old wives a-sunning sit,
In every street these tunes our ears do greet:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to witta-woo!
Spring, the sweet spring!