top of page


Chamber Music (Vocal) for Lower Voices

Click on a title to jump to information and recordings about the work, browse the catalogue subsections

The Second Coming (2018) | 6'

   Vocal Quartet (TTBB) & Horn

text by William Butler Yeats

The Need of Comrades: A Gay Cantata (2017) | 29'

   Countertenor, Tenor, Baritone, Piano

texts by Walt Whitman (arranged by Peter Dayton & Douglas Johnson)

Passing Stranger (2020) | 4'30"

   Lyric Baritone & 2 Flutes

text byWalt Whitman

Hidden Texts: Two Songs (2017/2018) | 10'30"

   Tenor & Guitar

texts by John Hollander & Wendell Berry

Just A Leaf: Three Natural Songs (2019) | 8'30"

   Tenor & Piano

texts by Paul Blackburn & William Bronk

Fresh in the Triumph (2018) | 4'30"

   Tenor & Piano

text by Peter Dayton (after Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway)


The Second Coming (2018)

TTBB & Horn

Text by William Butler Yeats

Total duration ca. 6'

Single movement work

Premiered in February 2020

in Baltimore, MD by Vince Sandroni, Ben Hawker,

Jason Buckwalter, John Scherch, and Shona Goldberg-Leopold

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $15.00

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button

Nearly a century after The Second Coming was written, it seems as relevant as ever. Written in the context of the aftermath of the First World War and beginning of the Irish War of Independence, Yeats depicts a world in chaos, out of balance, where “things fall apart; the center cannot hold,” and where indifference overtakes the good and the evil among us are “filled with passionate intensity.” His apocalyptic vision, (“a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi”) draws on his lifelong relationship to mysticism, astrology, and the occult, to create a hybrid Sphinx and whore of Babylon creature, a symbol of the end-times Yeats seems to be preparing himself to witness. Yeats was a deeply political poet, invested in the future of his country, struggling for independence; it seemed appropriate therefore to interpolate quotations of my own national anthem into this modern setting.  This setting is dedicated to Peter Campbell, a friend who requested the work – a challenge to set such a well-known poem that has been set so many times before. Additional thanks go to Justin Stanley, who advised me on the horn part.


"The Second Coming," by William Butler Yeats, from The Dial magazine, November 1920. This poem is in the Public Domain.


The Need of Comrades: A Gay Cantata (2017)

Countertenor, Tenor, Baritone, Piano

Texts by Walt Whitman (arranged by Peter Dayton & Douglas Johnson)

Total duration ca. 20' 

Eight movement work

I. "What think you I take my pen in my hand to record..."

II.​ "Clear to me now, standards not yet published…"

III. "We two boys together clinging…"

IV. "I dreamed in a dream I saw a city…"

V. "Are you the new person drawn toward me…"

VI. " I hear it is charged against me… –"

VII. "No labor-saving machine, nor discovery… –"

VIII. "States! States! Were you looking…"

Premiered on February 22, 2020

in Baltimore, MD

by James Mitchell Brown, Peter Dayton, Ross Tamaccio, and Aaron Thacker

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $20

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button
Listen to a recording on YouTube

Recorded performance, February 22, 2020 in Baltimore, MD, by James Mitchell Brown, Peter Dayton, Ross Tamaccio, and Aaron Thacker

Whitman’s poem Calamus is a poignant intersection of the poet’s celebration of human affection (pointedly homoerotic affection) and his political concerns as a American citizen before, during, and after the civil war: the text used to create the libretto of this work is from the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. The imagery of men passionately embracing, kissing, pining for each other is impossible to construe in this day and age as anything other than homosexually inclined. The particular poem used for this work, Calamus, turns the “need of comrades” from a sexual question into a socio-political question. At a time of political instability previously unprecedented in America’s history, Calamus is a cry for unity: the unification of hearts and minds. Since Whitman’s time, in many parts of the country, the clock has turned forward on the acceptance of LGBT individuals and non- heteronormative love. However, writing in a time of, yet again, staggering political disunity, as well as a resurgence of conservative ideology, I hope that The Need of Comrades portrays something of the struggle for acceptance that many to most non-heterosexual men experience, their journey, and the vision of a society founded upon love and affection. The text for this work was woven like a tapestry out of different sections of Calamus with the help and input of Douglas Johnson.

Text “Calamus” by Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass, from the edition published in 1860. This work is in the Public Domain.


Passing Stranger (2020)

Lyric Baritone, 2 Flutes

Text by Walt Whitman

Total duration ca. 4'

Single-movement work

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $15

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button

Baritone Ross Tamaccio requested a setting of this text after we worked together on a performance of The Need of Comrades, my other text settings from Whitman’s Calamus. The multi-sectional poem celebrates of homoerotic affection, this affection between men (and people of all genders) serving as an analogy for social unification and fellowship following the American Civil War. This particular section, which illustrates a sudden moment of attraction to a stranger, strikes at the heart of the viscerality and universality of Whitman’s view of affection. A whole life is envisioned, an instinct of familiarity, these hallmarks of attraction illustrate the level of investment Whitman wishes us to have even in strangers. In speaking to me about setting this text, Ross voiced concerns about how we will move forward as a society through the 2020 pandemic, especially how physical affection will change. We chose this text and I created this setting in the hope of a future in which this kind of scene could happen and could lead to love.


Text Calamus, from the 1866 edition of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. This poem is in the public domain.


Hidden Texts: Two Songs (2017/2018)

Tenor & Guitar

Texts by John Hollander & Wendell Berry

Total duration ca. 10'30

Two-movement work:

1. Hidden Texts

2. Do Not Be Ashamed

2. Do Not Be Ashamed premiered on November 10, 2016

in Baltimore, MD

by Peter Dayton & Jonathan Zwi

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $20

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button

I have grouped these songs, composed independently of each other, because they both address similar themes of paranoia, surveillances states, and an individual's fear of open expression (yet the irrepressible desire to express oneself). The first song's text is a transmission, an excerpt from John Hollander’s spy-themed verse novel Reflections on Espionage. Chronicling the reflections and activities of a Cold-War-era agent, alias “Cupcake,” the book unfolds in the format of secret dispatches sent out from Cupcake to his handler “Lyrebird” or a fellow agent and confidante, “Image.” The selected text centers around a feeling of regret and imminent loss. Cupcake fears that the cipher to which he has grown accustomed will be changed soon, something fraught with more emotion than it should be for an agent. Against this sense of loss, Cupcake reflects upon beauty in the world, all of it containing encoded messages. He resolves cherishing this method of communication while it yet lasts. In the verse novel’s narrative, this over-investment and emotion is Cupcake’s undoing. In setting this text I hope to create a performative portrait of this individual, struggling in a world where the self-suppression is necessary for survival. The second song's text, Wendell Berry’s poem “Do Not Be Ashamed” is both illustrative and a didactic. It externalizes the psychological world, painting a nocturnal picture of the addressee’s privacy being intruded on by a hostile, vaguely panopticon-like outside force. It speaks to the experience of the socially rejected and disenfranchised, individuals whose lack of conformity, whose very identity is questioned. Against this bleak procrustean scenario, Berry offers that belief in oneself, truth, radical honesty, and determination overcome the malicious forces that seek to destroy us as unique individuals, ending the poem with a calmly breaking day.

Text by John Hollander, text copyright © 1999, from "Reflections on Espionage". Reprinted by permission of Yale University Press. All Rights Reserved.

Text by Wendell Berry, text copyright © 2012 by Wendell Berry, from New Collected Poems. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint Press. All Rights Reserved.

Just A Leaf: Three Natural Songs (2019)

Tenor & Piano

Texts by Paul Blackburn & William Bronk

Total duration ca. 8'30"

Three-movement work

I. Invitation Standing

II. Winter Vocative

III. Evening

Premiered on February 22, 2020

in Baltimore, MD

by Peter Dayton & Valerie Hsu

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $15

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button
Listen to a recording on YouTube

Recorded performance, February 22, 2020 in Baltimore, MD, by Peter Dayton & Valerie Hsu

This set of songs explore contrasting moods and emotions, using the imagery of leaves, trees, and branches as its conduit. In each of the songs, the natural vegetation is treated both literally and symbolically, reflecting and amplifying the emotions that the tone of each poem establishes. In the breathless excitement of Invitation Standing, the leaf becomes a kind of passkey, a necessary token of vitality and the entrance of spring (“an April leaf”) – to whom the invitation is addressed is ambiguous, possibly the reader, possibly the season of Spring itself, in either case the leaf is a symbol of joyous growth, no matter the conditions. Winter Vocative presents a perverse opposite, wishing for an elongation of the leafless trees reflected in the broken mirror of winter, until we ache to know what growth and life look like again (contextualizing the first movement’s eagerness in retrospect). The final movement, at the end of the winter, examines the trees through the lens of wonder. Hesitating, doubling back, struggling to clarify a mystical, ineffable idea of the beauty of nature itself being an act of praise, the poetry becomes a kind of fractal of gratitude, praise of praise, ending the piece with a different kind of breathlessness, that of ecstasy.


Credit Lines:

  • Invitation Standing: Text by Paul Blackburn, "Invitation Standing" used by permission of Joan Blackburn.

  • Winter Vocative & To Praise the Music: William Bronk’s “Winter Vocative” and “To Praise the Music” used with permission of the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York.


Fresh in the Triumph (2017)

Tenor & Piano

Texts by Peter Dayton (after Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway)

Total duration ca. 4’30"

Single-movement work

Premiered (private performance) in April, 2018

in Raleigh, NC

by Peter Dayton and Jeremy Roberts

Premiered (public) on February 22, 2020

in Baltimore, MD

by Peter Dayton & Aaron Thacker

This song was a labor of love - commissioned by the husband of a dear friend of mine for that friend's birthday, Fresh In The Triumph is a song inspired by Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway," my friends favorite book. A refrain throughout the book is a section from a song in Shakespeare's "Cymbeline":

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun, 

Nor the furious winter’s rages; 

Thou thy worldly task hast done, 

Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages: 

Golden lads and girls all must, 

As chimney-sweepers, come to dust."

It is a funereal song that suggests that the dead fear nothing, that death is a release from care, toil and fear. Against that fatalistic notion (and more appropriately celebratory for a birthday), Fresh In The Triumph emphasizes the transcendent quality that our passing moments take on, and how we survive in those instants of forever. A book whose varies strains and ruminations on existence, memory, and time culminate in a party, the song takes elements of the characters and reflections of Clarissa and Peter Walsh and combines them into a new celebration of those themes in a style inspired by the folk-rock musical style of Jason Robert Brown.

Purchase this score from

Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $15

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button
Listen to a recording on YouTube

Recorded performance, February 22, 2020 in Baltimore, MD, by Peter Dayton & Aaron Thacker

bottom of page