Single Songs & Art Songs

Contents:

  1. The Snowman Song : Voice and Piano
  2. Wondrous Love : Baritone and Piano Trio
  3. Wayfaring Stranger : Medium Voice with Trumpet Obligato
  4. Beautiful Savior : Medium or High Voice
  5. The Terline Tree : Treble Voice and Guitar
  6. The Word : Baritone Vocalist and Brass Quintet
  7. Ode to a Fruitcake : Medium Voice
  8. Still a Lion, Still a Lamb : Medium High or High Voice
  9. The Song of Wandering Aengus : Medium Voice
  10. La Belle Dame Sans Merci : Three Movements for Medium High or Medium Low Voice
  11. The Water Grasses : High Voice
  12. Lions, Spiders and Flys (The Lion | The Spider and the Ghost of the Fly) : Medium Voice
  13. All Good Gifts : Medium Voice
  14. Behold! The Harvest Wide Extends : Medium Voice
  15. Two Early Songs (Come Let us Kiss and Part | Happy is the Man) : Medium Voice

The Snowman Song

Available on Sheet Music Plus.

I’ve written this short, little snowman song based on an anonymous poem:

Once there was a snowman, Who stood outside the door, He wished that he could come inside, And run about the floor. He wished that he could warm himself, Beside the fire, so red, He wished that he could climb Upon the big white bed.

So he called the North Wind, “Come and help me, pray, For I’m completely frozen, Standing here all day.” So the North Wind came along, And blew him in the door, And now there is nothing But a puddle on the floor!

Wondrous Love : Baritone and Piano Trio (Violin, Cello and Piano)

Another of my favorite folk hymn/spirituals. Please note the word painting used on the second verse’s ’sinking down.’ The entire arrangement plays back and forth with ‘3 against 2′ rhythms.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down beneath Gods righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

And when from death Im free, Ill sing on, Ill sing on;
And when from death Im free, Ill sing on.
And when from death Im free, Ill sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, Ill sing on, Ill sing on;
And through eternity, Ill sing on.

Wayfaring Stranger : Medium Voice, Trumpet and Piano

I have long loved this song and arranged it for me and my friend and fellow composer John Newman to perform (sadly, John can no longer play the trumpet). This arrangement is definitely influenced by my father as well, who was always listening to jazz in the car when I was growing up.

I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger,
A trav’lin through this world of woe;
But there’s no sickness toil or danger
In that bright land to which I go.
I’m goin’ there to see my father,
I’m goin’ there no more to roam;
I’m just a goin’ over Jordan,
I’m just a goin’ over home.

I know dark clouds will gather ’round me,
I know my way is rough and steep;
Yet beautious fields lie just before me,
Where God’s redeemed their vigils keep.
I want to wear a crown of glory,
When I get home to that good land;
I want to shout salvation’s story,
In concert with that bloodwashed band.

I’m goin’ there to see my Savior,
I’m goin there to sing his praise;
I’m just a goin’ over Jordan,
I’m just a goin’ over home.

Beautiful Savior : Medium or High Voice and Piano

The Terline Tree : Treble Voice and Guitar

This song/aria is a remnant from an incomplete Christmas children’s opera, Children of the North (based on the story In the Great Walled Country), I began for my master’s project while at BYU. I completed enough for the project, but abandoned the opera when I could see that it was going to be too difficult, as written, for the children’s choir I had intended to perform it. I’d like to go back and compose from this libretto anew someday, starting from scratch, with more realistic expectations for the children.

Choral remnants, rearranged, from Children of the North may be found on ChoirWorks.com:

The Word for Baritone Vocalist and Brass Quintet

PDF Score and Parts:

This is a work I wrote with the intent of it being included near the beginning of a Christmas program. It was premiered at the Salty Cricket Composer Collective’s Big Brass Show in late 2010.

The text is a slightly altered form of a sonnet I wrote called The Word, from the set of 12 sonnets, Meditations on the Birth of the Christ Child. Here is the original version:

THE WORD
by M Ryan Taylor

In that first bright beginning the Word was,
earnestly speaking in truth the secret of life,
severing the shadows, the gleaming knife
that cut creations corner stone. So does
the Word shine forth, but like a marshal fife
upon deaf, dark ears gains no attention,
so in gloom there is no comprehension.
Though He descending took to flesh our strife,
and suffered each and every tension
ten-thousand fold or more than we can know,
so we to life’s end blindly racing go,
never knowing the true rate redemption
cost as He a mortal did roam this earth,
never to know the true pain of our birth.

Ode to a Fruitcake : a New Musical Parody on Christmas Time’s least appreciated Delicacy

The irony here is that even though I wrote this seasonal song all in good fun, I love fruitcake. I’ve had variations I’m not crazy about, so I understand the jokes, but our family’s recipe, which served as the basis for many of the ingredients listed in the song, is absolutely sensational. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it.

Find the SATB version of Ode to a Fruitcake here.

Ode to a Fruitcake
by M Ryan Taylor

Fruitcake! Fruitcake!
Oh, what a glorious fruitcake!
Nothing quite says, “Merry Christmas, Good Cheer!,”
like a fruitcake.

With raisins, green pineapple, candied orange peel,
an applesauce batter to make a good seal,
the walnuts and hazelnuts, pecans and cherries,
cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves ‘mid dried berries!

Though many may dispute it’s reputation,
the fruitcake is a holiday sensation!
And, though the thought might fill a few with dread,
I proudly declare that the fruitcake is the ultimate queen of quickbread!

Fruitcake! Fruitcake!
Oh, what a marvelous, glorious, beauteous fruitcake!
“Merry Christmas, Good Cheer!”

Still a Lion, Still a Lamb

This song was written for a concert of sacred music I performed first Sunday in April 2009, a week before Easter, at the Alpine Tabernacle in American Fork. I wrote the poem the song is based on a few years previous:

Will the lion lose his fierceness?
In a day be soft and tame?
Will the wild, ferocious nature all be lost with all his fame?
When he meets the humble lamb will he lay aside his crown?
Will his mane be combed to fleece and his razor claw filed down?
Will all his glory pass?
Will he learn to mow the grass?
A cross between a cat and cow, an herbivore that barks meow?
If a lion lose his fierceness and become all soft and tame
is it right that this poor creature should retain the lion’s name?

In that day when on a sea of glass we meet eternity,
when our hearts beat one with God and Son will I cease to be me?

No, fierce and brave the lion stands, no innocent need fear his claw,
a guardian of truth and peace, a living pillar of the law.
Beneath his mane the lowly lamb curls meekly bearing mercy’s wool,
and I, still I, sing praise to Him who tore my sins but clothed my soul!

The Song of Wandering Aengus

I love this poem by William Butler Yeats and I wanted to set it, so I did. I didn’t try to incorporate it into a set. One reason may be that the longing that this poem portrays is complete in itself. We all have inward visions of ideals that we often blindly pursue in life, hoping that if we just wander a just little farther . . . Here is the poem by William Butler Yeats:

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

La Belle Dame sans Merci

La Belle Dame sans Merci (translated The Beautiful Lady without Mercy) is one of John Keats’ most famous poems and tells the tale of a young knight who is bewitched one springtime by a seductive faye. The knight is ‘kissed to sleep’ by the fairy, but then encounters a very troubling dream. Upon waking he finds that he is alone, spring and summer have fled away, and he is left to answer the probing questions of a passerby on the ‘lone hillside.’ The poem became a favorite subject for visual artists in the British Isles, particularly among the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. In 1997 I had not actually read the poem, but purchased a print of the Waterhouse painting for my apartment. I wanted to know more about the painting, and in researching it, quickly came upon the poem by Keats. It was not long before I had a rough draft of my first song cycle (the poem having been divided into 3 seperate songs). Though I originally set this poem for myself, but it could easily be performed by a female singer. The unique nature of the text freely allows it to be told through the eyes of the passerby who questions the knight. We are never told who this person is in the course of the poem. The version I used for the song cycle incorporates the best parts of both of Keats’ versions of this poem. It also leaves off the last stanza (which recaps an earlier stanza) for dramatic reasons.

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful – a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too [of] fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said –
‘I love thee true’.

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she gazed and sighed deep,
And there I shut her wild sad eyes
So kissed to sleep.

There we slumbered on the moss,
And there I dreamed – Ah! woe betide! –
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried – ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!’

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.

The Water Grasses

The place that this poem talks about no longer exists. There was a canal that ran along the road north of the BYU Museum of Art. I used to walk along that road on the way out to the parking lot where I usually left my car. The canal was filled with the most beautiful water grasses and mosses and surrounded by lawns and trees; green all over. It was truly picturesque. Unfortunately, in the name of water conservation, the canal has been put underground in a pipe. We may enjoy the water, but no longer the beauty . . .

The water grasses flow gently in the stream,
they softly sway left to right and back again.
I wonder at their permanence in the flow of constantly moving water.
The water grasses flow in the stream.

The seed of these grasses, long since rooted in cool mud,
tenaciously hold in place as the plant grows with the sunlight and the nourishment of the soil.
It is so beautiful, green, and speaks to me of a contented life.

I have become somewhat like the water grasses.
I am happy.

I wrote this song for a dear friend, soprano Clara Hurtado Lee, who gave the song’s premiere. It has since been smoothed out in a couple of places. There were some transitions that I was never happy about until I reworked them in February of 2008. This is why it is only became available 8 years after it was premiered.

Lions, Spiders & Flies

The set was originally written in 1998, entitled “Two Songs to Frighten Young Children.” This updated version was produced in 2005 for a recital in Arizona.

This setting for medium voice of two poems by Vachel Lindsay would make a humorous addition to any concert, but is especially apt for a Halloween event. The first song describes how the strife of a pride of lions is put to peace when an explorer unwittingly becomes dinner. The second song is written from the perspective of the fly who loved, unfortunately, the spider.

  1. The Lion is a kingly beast.
    He likes the Hindu for a feast.
    And if no Hindu he can get,
    The lion-family is upset.He cuffs his wife and bites her ears
    Till she is nearly moved to tears.
    Then some explorer finds the den
    And all is family peace again.
  2. Once I loved a spider
    When I was born a fly,
    A velvet-footed spider
    With a gown of rainbow-dye.
    She ate my wings and gloated.
    She bound me with a hair.
    She drove me to her parlor
    Above her winding stair.
    To educate young spiders
    She took me all apart.
    My ghost came back to haunt her.
    I saw her eat my heart.

Lions, Spiders & Flies (second edition, revised 2005)from a live recital at Arizona State University, Ryan Garrison is the baritone and Christi Leman is the pianist

  1. 2005LionsSpidersandFlies-1TheLion.mp3
  2. 2005LionsSpidersandFlies-2TheSpiderandtheGhostoftheFly.mp3

Lions, Spiders & Flies (first edition)performed by M. Ryan Taylor at a live recital at Brigham Young University

  1. The Lion.mp3
  2. The Spider and the Ghost of the Fly.mp3

All Good Gifts

All Good Gifts is a song of Thanksgiving. The words are from an old hymn collected by Matthias Claudius from local farmers, published first in 1782. The English version comes from a translation by Jane Campbell in the 19th century. Here is the hymn text, which has been accredited to Mathias Claudius:

We plow the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand;
He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.

All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above,
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all His love.

He only is the Maker of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower, He lights the evening star;
The winds and waves obey Him, by Him the birds are fed;
Much more to us, His children, He gives our daily bread.

We thank Thee, then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seed time and the harvest, our life, our health, and food;
No gifts have we to offer, for all Thy love imparts,
But that which Thou desirest, our humble, thankful hearts.

I was first exposed to these words in a production of Godspell, which my high school madrigal choir put on for their end of the year show in 1988. The Godspell setting is great, by Stephen Schwartz, but I wanted my own version, so this is it. I purposefully took a very different tack from the Schwartz version.

Behold! the Harvest Wide Extends

This text was taken from three missionary hymns by Parley Parker Pratt. The harvest here is the harvest of souls and nations instead of crops. Though Pratt and I are both Latter-day Saints, the text here is quite non-denominational and speaks of missionary work in the broadest of senses. I became interested in Pratt’s hymns when I found a dusty old hymnal that contained more than a hundred of them on the stacks in BYU’s music library. I even wrote a paper on his hymn texts as an undergraduate. Here is the Pratt text as I compiled it for this setting:

Behold the harvest wide extends,
The fields are white all o’er the plain,
The tares in bundles must be bound
While we with care secure the grain.

How rich is the treasure, ye saints of the Lord,
Entrusted to us as made known by His word,
The plan of Salvation, the Gospel of grace,
To publish a broad unto Adam’s lost race!

Shall we repine when Jesus calls,
or count it sacrifice to spend our lives,
Or lose them for the Gospel sake,
When He, our Savior, did the same,
Without a place to lay His Head?

Shall we behold the nations doomed
to sword, and famine, blood and fire,
Yet not the least exertion make,
but from the scene in peace retire?

No; Gladly we’ll go to the isles and proclaim,
And nations unknown shall then hear of His fame;
Yea, kingdoms and countries, both Gentiles and Jews,
Shall see us and hear us proclaim the glad news.

Give ear, ye isles in every zone,
For every land must hear the sound!
And tongues and nations long unknown
Since they were lost, shall soon be found.

Two Early Songs : Come Let us Kiss and Part | Happy is the Man

  1. Comeletuskissandpart.pdf
  2. HappyistheMan.pdf

Both songs were composed in the late 1990s. Both are on the light-hearted side. They can be sung as a set or individually.

COME LET US KISS AND PART
Michael Drayton

Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part;
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me,
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart
That thus so cleanly I myself can free;
Shake hands forever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love’s latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes,
Now if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou mightst him yet recover.

HAPPY IS THE MAN
excerpted from Proverbs 3:13-20

Happy is the man that findeth wisdom
and the man that getteth understanding
For the merchandise of it
is better than the merchandise of silver
and the gain thereof than fine gold
She is more precious than rubies
and all the things thou canst desire
are not to be compared unto her
Length of days is in her right hand
and in her left hand riches and honor
She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her
and happy is every one that retaineth her
The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth
by understanding hath He established the heavens
By His knowledge the depths are broken up
and the clouds drop down the dew

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