Learning Activity #1: The Power of the Text

Educational Focus

Students explore the role of text in music written for voice and orchestra and consider the ways a composer works with text.


Text asset: Lyrics from several compositions

Lesson Map

Teacher Note: All of the Guided Listening exercises should be done before starting this Learning Activity.

I. Read

  • Use the text asset: Lyrics from several compositions and have a student read aloud each of the poems. Before reading, give the name of the composition that each poem is from.
  • Ask: What is the mood of each of these texts?

II. Synthesize

  • Review what is known from the Guided Listening exercises about the background of all of the texts from the compositions studied.
  • Ask students to describe in one or two words what each composition is about (all opinions are valid if supported, but try and come to a consensus as a class.)
  • Examples:

Lonely Child (longing, searching, abandonment)
Songs for an Acrobat
(illness, love, death)
Five Songs for Dark Voice
(isolation, grief)
Adieu Robert Schumann (dementia, love, loss)

  • View the class suggestions and ask: When we look at these big ideas or themes that the compositions are about, do they have anything in common? (they are all exploring deep human emotion and/or transformative stages of life)

III. Reflect

  • Respond to the following question and support your answer with examples from the compositions studied in Power of the Voice.
    • Is the music in service of the text, or is the text in service of the music?

Lyrics from several compositions

From Songs for an Acrobat by Linda Bouchard, librettist Maurice Tourigny

III – Canyon

Next to our bed, under my eyes,
a crack, a gap,
sudden canyon in blood red clay.

From this crevasse,
hidden knowledge, secret chapter,
and all things sharp
piercing my skin.

From Five Songs for a Dark Voice by Harry Somers, words by Michael Fram


How can I walk in this city?
Too many sightless eyes, too many hopeless hands,
Too many and too many,
Now every grief is personal.
Too many avenues of pity,
How can I walk in this city?

From Lonely Child by Claude Vivier, words by Claude Vivier, translated from French

O beautiful child of the golden light, sleep,
Sleep always
Dreams will come
The sweet fairies will come to dance with you, wonderful you,
The fairies and the elves will celebrate you
The joyous farandole will go to your head, my friend.
Open ye golden doors, sumptuous palace
My child, the swallows will guide your step.

Ô bel enfant de la lumière dor dors
dors toujours dors
Les rêves viendront les douces fées
viendront danser avec toi merveille
Les fées et les elfes te fêteront la farondole joyeuse t'enivrera ami.
Dors mon enfant
Ouvrez-vous portes de diamant palais somptueux
Mon enfant les hirondelles guideront tes pas

Virtual Museum of Canada

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