First performed by William Vann and Tom Ellis, 21 February 2000, Bedford School, Bedford
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A setting of the poem by Thomas Hardy, 'Night of the Dance' describes the preparations for a dance to be held later in the evening, through the eyes of a man who hopes that at the dance his love will "return his vows". The poem is full of evocations of the atmosphere of country life, with its night-time noises and carefully drawn rural festivities. Above all, it invokes a tremendous sense of anticipation that increases as the poem progresses, and rekindles perfectly the sense of exhilarating dread of an impending emotional encounter. I sought to capture the dramatic shape of the poem through the simple means of building the piece around a two-note alternation that starts coldly at the beginning and gradually warms up and gains momentum until it is transformed into the full-blooded dance and talk of love towards the end. I also tried to evoke something of the sound world of the poem, such as the half-awakened sparrows flitting from the gable thatch and the open strings of the viol-tuning.