Ojalá from The Spanish Gypsy, 1901. Patty Stair, 1869-1926. Music Division, Library of Congress. Call number: M1570.S
Patty Stair composed Ojalá in 1907, while a faculty member at the Cleveland Conservatory of Music. Written for four-part women's voices with accompaniment, the piece was dedicated to the Rubenstein Club of Cleveland. That organization was a large women's choral group, modeled on a New York City ensemble founded by William Rogers Chapman (1855-1935), a New York public school music teacher. Chapman named his chorus after Russian pianist and composer Anton Rubenstein (1829-1894). The ensemble's success inspired formation of similar groups in other cities.
The text of Ojalá is from a larger poetic work, The Spanish Gypsy, by Mary Anne Evans (1819-1880), an English novelist better known by her pen name George Eliot. It was written in 1867, after one of her visits to Spain. Ojalá is one of two lyrics from The Spanish Gypsy that imitate the trochaic meter and verse of a traditional Spanish ballad. The poet uses the Spanish term "ojalá" ("God willing") as she asks to be carried by spring, summer, westward winds, and birds winging over the waves.
The Spanish ballad's distinctive meter influences the rhythm of Stair's musical setting. She consistently places the stressed word or syllable in the first two-thirds of each measure. This repetitive pattern creates a dancelike quality similar to that of the traditional Spanish flamenco.
The piano accompaniment is also reminiscent of flamenco music. The left hand of the accompaniment provides a driving rhythmic ostinato imitating a pizzicato bass, while the right hand alternates between chords and short melodies moving in parallel thirds. Similarly, the top two choral parts are often set in moving thirds and ornamented, while the alto voices are set in a more sustained style. Ojalá begins softly and, in the spirit of an energetic Spanish dance, crescendos to a full-textured forte on the final cadence.