Songs Contained

A programme may well contain the songs described here. The repertoire is growing steadily, as more and more songs are prepared for the Songs Contained format. Carefully selected for their intrinsic beauty or emotional impact, we also group our songs in sweeping, deeply human themes: love, religion, madness, to name but a few. Be prepared to travel with us through a shifting landscape of musical dreams.†


Charles IVES (1874 - 1954) Berceuse (1903)

His music is marked by an integration of American and European musical traditions, innovations in rhythm, harmony and form, and an unparalleled ability to evoke the sounds and feelings of American life. Ives is regarded as the leading American composer of art music of the 20th century.


Kurt WEILL (1900 - 1950) Youkali (1933)

Written by Weill, fleeing before the Nazi tide, for Parisian show singer Lys Gauty, he seems to shout it out: “if people would only..!” But, realistically, he gives the answer too: “mais c'est un rÍve, une folie. Il n'y a pas de Youkali”


Eric CLAPTON (1945) Tears in Heaven (1990)

Famously written by Slowhand for his son, who accidentally fell to his death while playing in an open high-rise window, it is one of the most eloquent songs of loss and reluctant acceptance.


Tom WAITS (1949) Take it with me (1999)

Waits:† “We wanted to take the old expression `you can't take it with you' and turn it on its ear. We figure there's lots of things to take with you when you go. We checked into a hotel room and moved a piano in there and wrote it. We both like Elmer Bernstein a lot. My favorite line is Kathleen's. She said `all that you've loved is all that you own.' It's like an old Tin-Pan Alley song."


George GERSHWIN (1898 - 1937)†Summertime (1935)

The first song, a lullabye, from the opera Porgy and Bess, Gershwin’s most ambitious work for the operatic stage, turned into an iconic American anthem.

demo session bw


Henry PURCELL (1659 - 1695)

Music for a While (1692)

A mesmerising and dreamy incantation scene, from the opera Oedipus. As it praises the restful and healing powers of music, obviously this has become† our signature song.†


Paul BOWLES (1910)

Farther from the heart (ca 1950)

A collaborative effort by author Jane Bowles (The Sheltering Sky) and composer Paul Bowles. The American couple was one of the first to ‘discover’ the enticements of living and smoking in Morocco.


John DOWLAND (1553 - 1626)†In Darkness let mee Dwell (1610)

By the master of the original lute song, a dark, wallowing song, in praise of Merry Melancholy, dragged straight into the now by our choice of instrument and effects.


Ernst BACON (1898 - 1990)†It's all I have to bring (1944)

An eloquent setting of a poem by legendary and prolific poet Emily Dickinson, whose works were only discovered after her death by her sister-in-law and posthumously published in 1890.


Samuel BARBER (1910 - 1981) †Sure on this shining night (1941)

A majestic anthem by Samuel Barber, written in 1941 with lyrics by James Agee. Barber, himself an accomplished baritone, is known for his smooth lyrical style which remains eminently singable, despite its obvious grandeur.


Henry PURCELL ‘Bess of Bedlam’ (1682)

Also known as From Silent Shades, and the Elysian Groves, this is of the Mad Song genre, in which Bess, locked up in Bedlam, the 17th Century’s horrendous mental institution, recalls or perhaps makes up her own sunny world, filled with love and Ambrosia - every line in the song is a radical moodswing.† Strong stuff.


Frederic RZEWSKI (1938)

Lullabye: God to a hungry Child
The Popular Creed: an old Song

Two strongly critical songs by the well-respected experimental composer of socialist-political conviction. These songs are timeless, illustrated by the fact that the lyrics of the former were penned by famous African American poet Langston Hughes, while those of the latter were found in the Anglo-Celt Newspaper, published in Cavan, county Cavan, Ireland, March 29, 1850.

© Michiel Niessen 2011