The lyrics of “Soft Stillness and the Night” come from the beginning of the 5th act of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, in which Lorenzo and Jessica are strolling through the evening, enjoying each other’s company in perfect contentment. It is this air of contentment at the end of the day that I wanted to evoke to honor David's retirement from his long and satisfying tenure.
Two specific musical notes: 1) the imitative back-and-forth between low and high parts is meant to imitate a gentle “war of words” that occurs earlier in the scene between our two lovers; 2) the soprano/alto duet at the beginning was inspired by the beginning of Debussy’s piano solo “Clair de Lune,” which means “moonlight.”
The First Readings Project; J. David Moore, conductor
How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears. Soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
~The Merchant of Venice V,i