Writing in The New Yorker
, Alex Ross labelled Ned Rorem ‘an elegant anomaly among American composers’. Rorem’s early career might suggest the exact opposite. After studies in the United States with, among others, Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson, he set off, like so many American composers before him, for France. However, a journey scheduled to last three months was extended to nine years, and in France Rorem developed an ‘austerely lyrical Franco-American style’ (Ross) that back home seemed anomalous or, at least, dated—an impression compounded no doubt by Rorem’s very long career. Sing, my soul, his wondrous love
was composed in the South of France in the summer of 1955, but the music, a largely homophonic setting of an 1841 hymn from the Protestant Episcopal Church, is more likely to evoke memories of the Quaker services Rorem attended as a child. Like many hymn-tunes, Sing, my soul falls
into rigorously observed two-bar phrases. Rorem’s artistry can be observed in his subtle reharmonizations of a hymn tune that is itself developed, with individual notes frequently displaced by an octave.
from notes by Martin Ennis © 2018