Love and spring are a traditionally good combination for a choral concert. Add poetry and some finely written prose, and you have a recipe for crafting the “Portraits of Love” promised by the Unicorn Singers this weekend.
Described by the chorus as “a musical vision of love in its many forms,” the program will be presented on Saturday night in Scituate and Sunday afternoon in Hingham.
The songs will include musical settings of works by icons such as Romantic poet Lord Byron, English neoclassical author John Dryden, and Nobel Prize recipient Pablo Neruda of Chile.
Interspersed with the songs are readings from Alfred, Lord Tennyson; a love letter from Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) to his wife-to-be; Dorothy Parker’s considerably tarter treatment of a young couple’s first hours of marriage; and Anne Morrow Lindberg’s reflections on love, nature, and solitude. Together, the chorus says, these songs and readings reflect “the many moods of love: new, ﬁckle, enduring, unrequited.”
The Hingham-based Unicorn Singers ensemble comprises male and female performers, including some of the original participants from the choral group’s start in 1979, said Margo Euler, its founding director.
“They are quite experienced musicians,” Euler said of the group’s singers. “They do a lot of solo work in churches. They like singing with the Unicorn Singers because we don’t hire soloists.”
Another plus is the group’s range of genres.
“We do all kinds of music. We do everything classical, we also do show tunes,” Euler said. A few years ago the chorus began adding spoken-word pieces. “Mixing music and poetry readings, that’s our most recent niche,” she said.
This weekend’s performances will be the first full spring concert with this approach.
“This particular program had been noodling in the back of my head,” Euler said. “It’s a concert that combined poems — there’s so much love poetry in the world. But I discussed it with Joan Gatturna,” a Hingham storyteller and actress. “She’s my partner in crime. She’s so good, she chose the readings.”
The reader is British-born Michael Theobald, a language teacher from Milton with a flair for accents.
The program includes a musical setting by Canadian composer Ruth Watson Henderson of a poem of love’s awakening (”Awake, My Heart”) by 19th-century English poet Robert Bridges.
One of Byron’s best known poems, “She Walks in Beauty,” is set to music by American composer David Folz. It begins “She walks in beauty, like the night/ Of cloudless climes and starry skies.”
The songs are interspersed with excerpts from Victorian poet Tennyson’s “Locksley Hall,” a poem that evokes the splendor of love’s first declaration, but ends on an altogether different note.
Theobald will also read from writer and poet Lindbergh’s well-loved “Gift from the Sea,” based on her annual retreats to a tiny island off Florida. On “the simplicity of first love,” she wrote, it “seems at its initial appearance to be a self-enclosed world. There are no others in the perfect unity of that instant! Two people listening to each other, making one world between them.”
Theobald also reads Clemens’s letter to “My dearest Livy,” and from Neruda’s “Sonnet of the Night,” which begins: “When I die, I want your hands upon my eyes.”
He and Gatturna will jointly read some of the dialogue from Parker’s short story “Here We Are.” He says: “Well, how does it feel to be an old married lady?” She replies: “Goodness, we’ve only been married about three hours, haven’t we?” Things stumble on from there.
After more music, including English composer Edward Elgar’s setting of “My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land,” a poem by Andrew Lang, the concert concludes with more of Lindberg’s reflections on love and nature.
A “romantic reception” after the concert will include chocolate, “the food of lovers.”
Euler said concertgoers are also invited to make themselves a part of “love’s portrait” during the reception by bringing their own favorite photo of a loving moment to add to a display.
Euler has uncovered a photo of her maternal grandmother and grandfather at their wedding in 1907. It appears on the event’s poster, along with cameos of Clemens and his Livy.