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Article "Inconstancy" by George Whitefield Chadwick

Image: Sigh No More Ladies
Sigh No More Ladies, ca. 1873-1875, by Sir John Gilbert, history painter and draughtsman, 1817-1897. Chromolithograph. Courtesy of Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. From The Library Shakespeare. London: William Mackenzie, between pages 144 and 145.

from Four Choruses (1910)

Large-scale works figure most prominently in Chadwick's output--Judith, Noël, and his Ode for the Opening of the Chicago World's Fair (1892), which was performed by a chorus of 5,000 persons, an orchestra of 500, and three brass bands. Due to his long-time association with church choirs and choral societies, however, he also produced a substantial body of smaller works: 37 anthems, 19 choruses for male voices and 20 choruses for female voices.

Chadwick's Inconstancy is the first in a set of Four Choruses (1910). It is dedicated to Samuel L. Herrman and the Treble Clef Club of Philadelphia. Herrman, whom the young Chadwick met during his ocean voyage to Europe in 1877, also conducted the Philadelphia Männerchor. Chadwick's original setting for unaccompanied women's voices, was also transcribed and published for SATB [soprano, alto, tenor, bass] unaccompanied chorus and TTBB [tenor 1, tenor 2, baritone, bass] chorus with piano ad lib.

In this chorus he sets Shakespeare's text "Sigh no more ladies" from Much Ado about Nothing. The opening line receives a plaintive homophonic setting before the piece launches into a buoyant free counterpoint. Chadwick's rhythms are tied closely to the agogic stress of the text. He makes use of a folk-like pentatonic melody on "Then sigh not so, but let them go," climaxing on a minor-seventh chord at "converting all your sounds of woe." The verse ends with a rapid upward scale in the first soprano, "Into hey nonny, nonny, nonny, nonny," while the lower three voices sing "sigh no more" piano, dolce, and with an expressive grace note.

About this Item


  • "Inconstancy" by George Whitefield Chadwick


  • -  Chadwick, G. W. (George Whitefield) -- 1854-1931 -- -- composer
  • -  Choral music
  • -  Progressive Era to New Era (1900-1929)
  • -  Songs and Music
  • -  Parlor and Concert Stage
  • -  Articles


  • article

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