This quiet, a cappella part song, the third in a set of eight (published in 1910) by Stanford with words by the nineteenth century poetess Mary Coleridge, (whose father was the founder of the London Bach Choir in 1875) is a wonderful expression of the tranquillity and beauty of the scene, as described in the words.
Stanford distances the sopranos in this piece, treating them as a solo line accompanied by the lower parts. The shape of the melody represents the flight of the bird, and the haunting repeated use of the word “blue” illustrates the timelessness of the moment, and the blue suspended sky.
The lake lay blue below the hill,
O'er it as I looked, there flew
Across the waters, cold and still,
A bird whose wings were palest blue.
The sky above was blue at last,
The sky beneath me blue in blue
A moment, ere the bird had passed,
It caught its image as it flew.
Notes by Peter Parfitt
©2011 Aberdeen Bach Choir