• By Night My Mind13:03

By Wm. Shakespeare


Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing,
And like enough thou know'st thy estimate:
The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
My bonds in thee are all determinate.
For how do I hold thee but by thy granting?
And for that riches where is my deserving?
The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,
And so my patent back again is swerving.
Thyself thou gavest, thy own worth then not knowing,
Or me, to whom thou gavest it, else mistaking;
So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again, on better judgment making.
Thus have I had thee, as a dream doth flatter,

In sleep a king, but waking no such matter.
Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head,
To work my mind, when body's work's expired:
For then my thoughts, from far where I abide,
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see
Save that my soul's imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee and for myself no quiet find.



frank stemper

By Night My Mind (1998/2009)
for Concert Choir with piano solo — [11 mins.]


By Night My Mind is a setting of two Shakespeare love sonnets (“Farewell! Thou art too dear for my possessing” and “Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed”) for choir and piano solo.  The piano part of this work, although often supporting the choir harmonically and melodically, is not an accompaniment.  It is a vital part of the music and is actually in duet with the choir, often independently stepping out on its own in a new direction.

The piece was written involuntarily or unintentionally, immediately after the death of my father – a natural response.  My dad was a good friend of mine.  In fact, I loved both of my parents very much.  When my mother died, I also immediately responded by composing music, although that was a bombastic piece for accordion and eight instruments (Le Maître Du Marteau).  It is interesting that for my mother, a gentle mother of seven and professional singer, I would write a non-vocal, rugged piece with an accordion, but for my father, a dominant, rather macho psychiatrist, I would compose love sonnets for choir. 
I am lucky to be able to harness an intense emotion, such as grief, and then transform it into a musical statement.  The highbrow name for this is “artistic expression.”  As a kid, my father tried to get me to harness my intense musical curiosity and transform it into an interest in chemistry, biology and math, so that I might get into medical school.  Forbidden by my father to even think about turning my passion into a career, it was during my fourth semester of Pre-Med at the University of Wisconsin that I finally confronted him.  It was an important night for me, taking the bus from Madison to Milwaukee, facing my parents, and then emphatically declaring that I would be foregoing medicine for music.  (I had actually made up my mind hours earlier, while studying for an Organic Chemistry mid-term exam, which I later aced.) 

That night changed the course of my life, and not only because it began my professional life as a composer: My dad, after hearing the pronouncement and realizing my fervent resolve, immediately and respectfully became supportive, and, at that moment, the two of us became equals.  At age 19, I was suddenly a man, independently stepping out on my own in a new direction.



Last Updated: February 27, 2010