The Four Loves (Complete) (SATB)


The constituent pieces in this choral cycle are based on the thematic ideas presented in C.S. Lewis’s 1960 book of the same title. Four separate poems were combined to make a larger narrative form that encompasses the four categories of love adopted by Lewis. In Barbauld’s text, the lush imagery of the countryside serves as a beautiful backdrop for familial dynamics and love within a household, where the children are the most important part of the lives of their parents.

Friendship and trust is put to the test, perhaps more than in any other situation, on the battlefield. Gurney’s writing recollects his own experiences in the horror of the first World War, where his deep anguish is put into writing this poem: a despairing plea for the glow of the moon and stars to provide comfort for the souls of his friends slain in battle.

The British pastoral style in the Renaissance is encapsulated in the poetry of Christopher Marlowe, which gives a first-person glimpse into the thoughts of a seemingly innocent shepherd-boy: his final words do not include a promise of a lasting relationship. Although we can simply assume that the shepherd is purely blinded by emotions, the selective appeal to sensations and feelings brings to question the trustworthiness of the shepherd. This musical setting is therefore a playful one.

Finally, the passage in John 15 serves as a reminder of God’s unconditional love for humanity, and the overflowing joy that comes with that love. Agape is a love not of human pursuit, but one that God gave freely. It is the most one-sided of the loves, where God who needs nothing, “loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them” (Lewis, 1960, p. 176).

These four pieces are of different musical styles, but ultimately carry the same message: that there are people we can love in an intimate and affectionate manner – no least our families, friends, spouses, and the heavenly Father.


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