In the summer of 2020, when Covid-19 had shuttered arts organizations throughout the United States, I collaborated with guitarist Oren Fader to create a video recording of Diario dun Camiño, a solo guitar work that I wrote during happier times, while walking the Camino de Santiago in northwestern Spain. Orenʼs wife, mezzo-soprano Jessica Bowers, was his de facto recording assistant for that project, and she and he, as the Bowers Fader Duo, asked me to compose something for them to perform together.
My wife and I, meanwhile, had embarked on a separate pandemic project: to watch the complete plays of William Shakespeare. As we progressed, I noted various passages that struck me as potentially set-able, and one such passage—from Henry VI, Part III—found a home in Kingʼs Complaint. King Henry VI, his realm besieged by internal wars for which he has neither the stomach nor the antidote, here laments his lot and wishes away his kingdom and life.
John Dowlandʼs lute songs are an easy model for any work for voice and guitar, and since Dowland was a contemporary of Shakespeare, my choosing to emulate his tone and (less precisely) his style was all the more compelling. Moreover, I had spent much of the month of October 2020 composing a set of variations for solo piano on a lute song of Dowlandʼs that had obsessed me for years, so his music was quite fresh in my mind.
Kingʼs Complaint can be heard as an homage to Dowland and to Shakespeare in equal measure, and I hope that it becomes a vital addition to the Bowers Fader Duoʼs now extensive catalog of music composed specifically for them.