Transform the World with Beauty (2019)

SATB vocal ensemble (16 voices). 11 mins.


Commissioned by Skylark Vocal Ensemble. Inspired by the flowering of visual art and poetry in Victorian Britain during the 1840s-1870s.

Any of the three movements may be programmed separately as standalone works for performance.

Perusal Score

Score available for purchase. Please direct inquiries to Nell Shaw Cohen at nell@nellshawcohen.com.

Program Note

Transform the World with Beauty, commissioned by Skylark Vocal Ensemble, is inspired by the flowering of visual art and poetry in Victorian Britain during the 1840s-1870s. “My First Camera” celebrates avant-garde photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron. In my adaptation of an excerpt from Cameron’s autobiography, this pioneering artist describes the power of her creative impulse when she first took up the camera as a 48-year-old wife and mother. “In an Artist’s Studio” is a setting of a poem by Christina Rossetti. She offers an incisive, feminist critique of her brother, Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and his obsessive depictions of an idealized woman. The final, title movement is inspired by the work and ideas of William Morris. The botanical and mythological titles of Morris’ sensuous textiles and wallpaper designs are juxtaposed with lofty sentiments from his philosophical lectures and essays. These two strands of Morris’ world, disparate at first, come together into a hopeful vision of society “transformed” through the beauty of nature and art.

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Performance History
  • Skylark Vocal Ensemble at Fitchburg State University, Fitchburg, MA, 4/04/19.
  • Skylark Vocal Ensemble at Gloucester Meeting House, Gloucester, MA, 4/05/19.
  • Skylark Vocal Ensemble at Cole Memorial Chapel, Wheaton College, Norton, MA, 4/06/19.
  • Skylark Vocal Ensemble at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Georgetown Parish, Washington D.C, 4/07/19.
  • “My First Camera” (except) performed by The Astoria Choir, Trinity Lutheran Church, Astoria, NY, 3/7/20. Call for Scores winner.
  • “In an Artist’s Studio” (excerpt) performed by Williams College Chamber Choir, Hancock Shaker Village, Pittsfield, MA 4/17/20 and Williams College, Williamstown, MA, 4/19/20. *Canceled due to COVID-19
PRESS CLIPPINGS

Musical Portraits: The Skylark Ensemble Painted a Tapestry of Colors During Recent DC Concert