Night Pieces
A setting of three Wordsworth nocturnes for mixed chorus and five instruments.

Duration: 16'
Difficulty: 4/5

Click here to view score.

How Beautiful the Queen of Night

A Night-Piece

The sun has long been set


Mixed Chorus (SATB)


Cor Anglais
Horn in F
I. How Beautiful the Queen of Night
1846, by William Wordsworth

How beautiful the Queen of Night, on high
Her way pursuing among scattered clouds,
Where, ever and anon, her head she shrouds
Hidden from view in dense obscurity.
But look, and to the watchful eye
A brightening edge will indicate that soon
We shall behold the struggling Moon
Break forth,--again to walk the clear blue sky.

II. A Night-Piece
1798, by William Wordsworth
Composed on the road between Nether Stowey and Alfoxden, extempore. I distinctly recollect the very moment when I was struck, as described--"he looks up--the clouds are split," etc.

The sky is overcast
With a continuous cloud of texture close,
Heavy and wan, all whitened by the Moon,
Which through that veil is indistinctly seen,
A dull, contracted circle, yielding light
So feebly spread, that not a shadow falls,
Chequering the ground--from rock, plant, tree, or tower.
At length a pleasant instantaneous gleam
Startles the pensive traveller while he treads
His lonesome path, with unobserving eye
Bent earthwards; he looks up--the clouds are split
Asunder,--and above his head he sees
The clear Moon, and the glory of the heavens.
There, in black-blue vault she sails along,
Followed by multitude of stars, that, small
And sharp, and bright, along the dark abyss
Drive as she drives: how fast they wheel away,
Yet vanish not!--the wind is in the tree,
But they are silent,--still they roll along
Immeasurably distant; and the vault,
Built round by those white clouds, enormous clouds,
Still deepens in its unfathomable depth.
At length the Vision closes; and the mind,
Not undisturbed by the delight it feels,
Which slowly settles into peaceful calm,
Is let to muse upon the solemn scene.

III. The sun has long been set
1804, by William Wordsworth

The sun has long been set,
The stars are out by twos and threes,
The little birds are piping yet
Among the bushes and trees;
There’s a cuckoo, and one or two thrushes,
And a far-off wind that rushes,
And a sound of water that gushes,
And the cuckoo’s sovereign cry
Fills all the hollow of the sky.

Who would “go parading”
In London, “and masquerading,”
On such a night of June
With that beautiful soft half-moon,
And all these innocent blisses?
On such a night as this is!
Commission & Performance History
Night Pieces was commissioned by the Utah Chamber Artists and premiered on May 3, 2004 in Salt Lake City by the Utah Chamber Artists with Barlow Bradford, Artistic Director, conducting. It was recorded in 2006 by Los Angeles Chamber Singers, conducted by Grammy Award-winning Peter Rutenberg, for the CD Evening Wind.

Richard Nance and the Pacific Lutheran University Choral Union presented the work at the 39th National Conference of the American Harp Society in 2010. Utah Chamber Artists reprised Night Pieces in 2010 and again in 2012.
Reviews & Responses
“J.A.C. Redford’s Night Pieces, settings of three William Wordsworth poems, also were written with UCA in mind. The unusual instrumentation...suited the dark-hued poetry perfectly. There’s no choir in town that achieves a purer tone or paints more evocatively with sound than UCA and Night Pieces was an ideal showcase.” (Catherine Reese Newton, “Utah Chamber Artists plays with brains, heart,” from The Salt Lake Tribune, 1 March 2010.)