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O rose of May

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Harrison J. Collins

Harrison J. Collins

The word "rose" in the title is intentionally written in lower case.

General Info

Year: 2018
Duration: c. 6:25
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Murphy Music Press
Cost: Score and Parts - $145.00


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass (optional but preferred)
Piano (optional but preferred)
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Chimes
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Crotales
  • Field Drum (without snare)
  • Glockenspiel
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tenor Drum
  • Tom-Tom (low)
  • Vibraphone
  • Wind Chimes


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

O rose of May is a musical response to Hamlet, the world famous and deeply influential play by William Shakespeare. The work focuses on the character arc of Ophelia, Hamlet’s would-be love interest, and her internal struggle amongst the external conflict of the play. In the play’s early stages, Ophelia is torn by her love for Hamlet -- her brother, Laertes, and her father, Polonius, urge her not to pursue him further, and Hamlet himself begins acting strangely towards her. She is pushed further and further by Hamlet’s confusing and seemingly insane actions until he kills Polonius. Overcome with grief, Ophelia is driven mad, and in her last appearances in the play she is hysterical, singing songs and sharing flowers with other characters. Before it is announced that she has died (likely by suicide), Laertes sees her in this state and calls to her, saying:

O rose of May,
Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia!
O heavens, is ’t possible a young maid’s wits
Should be as mortal as an old man’s life?

Represented by a solo clarinetist, Ophelia is depicted as singing a solitary, peaceful song in the opening of the work. After this introduction, an agitated melody takes over, representative of the conflict between the characters of the play. Ophelia’s song reappears -- but every time it is more and more twisted. A brief respite suggests relief from the conflict, but the song is unable to begin again. It bends to the will of the conflict, the voices of the surrounding characters overpower her, and as Ophelia descends into madness, her song becomes a hysterical celebration. The final bars are a wild chromatic descent into the last note of the work -- a reflection on Ophelia’s final moments, falling from her tree branch into the brook in which she drowns.

- Program Note by composer


State Ratings

  • Georgia: V
  • Texas: V


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