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Series: Signature Secular Series
Format: SATB Choral Score
Accompaniment: Unaccompanied 
Donald M. Skirvin
Text: William Shakespeare
Performance time - ca. 7:10

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The text is taken from a threnody (a song sung in memory of the dead) whose first line is, “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,” text that is taken from Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline. The text lays out the argument against mourning and provides an elegiac injunction not to fear death but instead to find consolation in death’s “quiet consummation.” While the play itself is not often performed, the lines I have set have also inspired other composers, notably Gerald Finzi, and other English composers such as Robert Quilter and Ian Higginson to create art songs. The American composer Stephen Sondheim set two of the four stanzas as a solo for the character of William Shakespeare in his musical The Frogs. In this play, the character of Dionysus wants to hear Shakespeare speak of a young man's feelings about death. And his response is the song "Fear No More."

In this choral setting, I have followed the structure of the poem (four stanzas of six lines each) and created four sections, all of which begin a treatment of the words, “Fear no more,” that employs different voicings and registers and which is followed by thematic variations on some common elements. The final stanza is a renunciation of exorcisers, witchcraft, ghosts, and anything ill that could trouble the grave. This last segment uses new, dramatic material, and it begins and ends with a treatment of the words, “Fear no more,” which is set using an irregular time signature of 7/4 so that the rhythmic pulse becomes atemporal and spacious.

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun
by William Shakespeare
A threnody from Cymbeline, Act IV, Scene 2

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The scepter, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.
No exorciser harm thee!

Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renownèd be thy grave!