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Stephen Brown: Compositions

Shadow of a Leaf

soprano and marimba
A 10 movement song cycle for soprano and marimba sung as one movement. The text is based on Chinese poetry from 800 BC to 1900 AD. It describes the awakening, desires, frustrations, and dreams of a young woman falling deeply in love for the first time. Commissioned by Darryl and Dianne Edwards as a gift for the wedding of Jennie Such (soprano) and Nicholas Coulter (marimba) on January 14, 2005. Text assembled and arranged by the composer.

"On June 2, 2004 the Talisker Players performed my elegy MAXWELL, Larry Douglas in the soprano and string quartet version at Trinity St. Paul's Centre in Toronto. Jennie Such was the soprano (see reviews). After the concert Darryl Edwards, a close friend of Jennie's, told to me how much he liked my music and asked me to write a piece for him. I said that I was very busy academically and that my duties left me with very little time to compose. And that when I did write, I liked to write what just what I wanted to. He said the work would be a wedding present for Jennie. Well, she had done such a beautiful job on my piece I immediately changed my mind."

World premiere performances:
Friday, May 1, 2009, St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, Sidney, BC
Sunday, May 3, 2009, Alix Goolden Hall, Victoria Conservatory of Music, Victoria, BC
Nancy Washeim - soprano, Masako Hockey - marimba.

Jennifer Enns Modolo - mezzo soprano, Tim Francom - marimba, February 1 & 2, 2011, St. Paul's Centre, Toronto, Ontario. "The first half of the evening’s high point was Victoria composer Stephen Brown’s Shadow of a Leaf, which tautly stretched gorgeously wrought melodic arcs over a cleverly undulating and pulsing accompaniment on marimba, expertly executed by Tim Francom." John Terauds, Toronto Star.

Leah Gordon - soprano, & Christian Wissel - marimba
Offenbach, Germany,September 12, 2016

Audio and score
Shadow of a Leaf

Duration: 15:30

Score samples
Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6

Swan House SJB 1319
32 pages, $20.00

Shadow of a Leaf

The musicians have gone.
The lilacs which they placed in the vases of jade
bend towards the lutes
and seem to listen still...

That mad boy will not speak to me...
Yes, all because of you, I leave my rice untouched.
That mad boy will not eat with me...
Yes, it is all because of you that I cannot get my rest.

Alone in her chamber,
a young girl is embroidering some silken flowers.
Suddenly, she hears a distant flute... she trembles.
She believes that a young man is speaking to her of love.

Through the paper in the window,
the shadow of an orange leaf comes to rest upon her lap...
she closes her eyes.
She believes that a hand is opening her robe.

When the swallows returned this year,
they made their nests in the embroidery room...

It I were a tree or plant
I would feel the soft influence of spring.
Since I am a woman...
do not be astonished at my joy.

Sun in the east!
This lovely man is in my house,
is in my home,
his foot is upon my doorstep.

Moon in the east!
This lovely man is in my home,
is in my room,
his hand is upon my breast.

They gathered clay from the flower garden,
and scattered dust over harp and books.

How well your black coat fits!
Where it is torn I will mend it for you.
Let us go to where you live and I will hand your food to you.

How splendid your black coat looks!
Where it is wore I will patch it for you.
Let us go to where you live and I will hand your food to you.

Winter has frozen the cascade and blown
the leaves from the cinnamon trees in the garden.
It will be long before we see again the warblers, butterflies, and peonies.
Let us go to the pavilion of silk where tiny brooks glisten
among trees filled with flowers and birds.

In order that you may hear the humming of the embroidered warblers,
I will sing you the song of the birth of the spring,
and you will only have to close your eyes to believe yourself
on the bank of the river on the third day of the third moon.

Perhaps you will fall asleep.
Then I will kiss you so lightly that you will believe
the butterflies are beating their wings against your cheeks.

The water lilies sway in the breeze.
Their perfume comes to sweeten the palace
which rises in the middle of the lake.

Slightly drunken she dances.
Suddenly she staggers,
leans against the white jade bed,
and smiles.


The musicians have gone ~ Anonymous

That mad boy will not speak with me ~ The Book of Songs ~ 800BC - 600 BC
"All Because of You"

Alone in her chamber ~ Ting Tun-ling ~ 772 - 845
"The Shadow of a Leaf"

When the swallows returned this year ~ Hsin Ch'i-chi ~ 1140 - 1207
"When the Swallows Returned"

If I were a tree or plant ~ Anonymous ~ 1005

Sun in the east! ~ The Book of Songs

They gathered clay from the flower garden ~ Hsin Ch'i-chi

How well your black coat fits! ~ The Book of Songs
"Let Us Go Where You Lodge"

Winter has frozen the cascade and blown ~ Chang Wu-chein • 1879 - ?
"The Pavilion of Silk"

The water lilies sway in the breeze ~ Li Po ~ 702 - 763
"The Dancing Girl"

Translators: Arthur Waley, Gertrude L. Joerissen, and Peter Rudolph.

Text assembled and arranged by Stephen Brown