A Pretence of Wit

Programme Note

A Pretence of Wit sets five poems of W. B. Yeats which deal in different ways with the subject of nature and man’s relationship to it. ‘The Dawn’ and ‘In the Seven Woods’, the two songs which frame the cycle, celebrate nature and suggest the thoughts and actions of human beings are trivial by comparison. ‘The Hawk’ and ‘To a Squirrel at Kyle-na-no’ are shorter, more light-hearted songs which portray the eponymous animals in a more literal pictorial way. At the centre of the cycle, and at its expressive heart, lies ‘To his Heart, Bidding it have no Fear’, a slow song which expresses awe at the majesty of the natural world. Although the theme of nature runs through the five poems, the songs are musically independent from one another, and the intention was to create the maximum degree of contrast in mood and texture.

A Pretence of Wit was shortlisted for British Composer Awards (Vocal Category) 2013.

For tips on performing A Pretence of Wit, see Jane Manning, Vocal Repertoire for the Twenty-First Century, Volume 2

Year: 2010
Duration: 8′
Instrumentation: Soprano, Piano

1 – The Dawn
2 – The Hawk
3 – To His Heart, Bidding it have no Fear
4 – To a Squirrel at Kyle-na-no
5 – In the Seven Woods



25th June 2015
Sarah Killian (Soprano), Michelle Santiago (Piano)
St. Olave’s Hart Street, London

22nd May 2014
Madeleine Holmes (Soprano), Gavin Roberts (Piano)
Clore Studio, Royal Opera House

17th October 2013
Lucy Goddard (Soprano), Gavin Roberts (Piano)
The Hall, St. Botolph without Bishopsgate

6th July 2013
Madeleine Holmes (Soprano), Gavin Roberts (Piano)
LSO St Luke’s

16th May 2013
Frances Israel (Soprano), Elizabeth Rossiter (Piano)
The Chapel Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

20th November 2012
Anna Patalong (Soprano), Elizabeth Rossiter (Piano)
The Forge, Camden

20th October 2012
Emily Hindrichs (Soprano), Joseph Middleton (Piano)
Aldeburgh Church