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Truth and Lie: When My Love Swears

Instrumentation: 8-part unaccompanied mixed chorus (S.S.A.A.T.T.B.B.)

Duration: ca. 6'

Lyricist: William Shakespeare

Language: English

Composition Date: 2019.09

Première Date: 2019.10.18

Première Artists: The Esoterics (Conductor: Eric Banks)

Remark: Commissioned by The Esoterics as their annual Polyphonos: International Composer (2018/19)

Sample Recording:

(By the courtesy of the Esoterics.)


Score Preview: PDF

Text in Original Language:

When my love swears that she (he) is made of truth, 

I do believe her (him) though I know she (he) lies,

That she (he) might think me some untutored youth, 

Unlearned in the world's false subtleties. 

Thus vainly thinking that she (he) thinks me young, 

Although she (he) knows my days are past the best, 

Simply I credit her (his) false-speaking tongue: 

On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed. 

But wherefore says she (he) not she (he) is unjust?  

And wherefore say not I that I am old? 

O! love's best habit is in seeming trust, 

And age in love, loves not to have years told: 

Therefore I lie with her (him), and she (he) with me, 

And in our faults by lies we flattered be.

Programme Notes:

Based on one of the most famous sonnets by William Shakespeare, Truth and Lie: When My Love Swears is a choral piece composed for 8-part mixed chorus. The poem shows an understanding of the nature of truth and flattery in romantic relationships. It emphasises the effects of age and the associated deterioration of beauty, and its effect on a sexual or romantic relationship. 


As a revitalised choral setting 420 years after the original poem, the composer enriches the text by including both genders whenever there is any generic pronoun. Such contextual approach often shapes the antiphonal choral writings between female and male voices. With the frequent puns designed in the original poem, the idea of “lies” and “false” also scatters throughout the piece in both singing and whispering forms. 


In reality, there would not be an answer to all matters. Not all answers would be the truth. And not all the truth, we would be able to accept.

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