The Food of Love

For Chorus and String Orchestra 
(2017) 10 minutes

Commissioned by the London Oriana Choir as part of their five15 project. Premiered by the choir and the Meridien Sinfonia conducted by Dominic Peckham at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, on 7th March 2013

Programme note

The Food of Love was commissioned by the London Oriana Choir (and is the last of three works written during my five15 residency). The brief was to write a piece suitable for a spring concert (something joyful, inspired by fertility) that also looked to Monteverdi's Vespers in some way. Having recently set quite a few Marian texts I felt I needed a change of scene, so I instead spent a very enjoyable week reading all the poems about fruit, vegetables, (and other edible aphrodisiacs) that I could find, eventually settling on excerpts of Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market and Jonathan Swift's Verses Made for Fruit Women. Many of the motives and textures in the piece are either stolen from, or influenced by, the Vespers. 

The Food of Love has four movements:

  1. Orchard Fruits (Rossetti)

  2. Onions (Swift)

  3. Oysters (Swift)

  4. Melons and Plums (Rossetti)

© Cheryl Frances-Hoad, 2017



Orchard Fruits

Come buy, come buy: 

Apples and quinces, 

Lemons and oranges, 

Plump unpeck’d cherries, 

Melons and raspberries, 

Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches, 

Swart-headed mulberries, 

Wild free-born cranberries, 

Crab-apples, dewberries, 

Pine-apples, blackberries, 

Apricots, strawberries;

All ripe together 

In summer weather.

Come buy, come buy: 

Our grapes fresh from the vine, 

Pomegranates full and fine, 

Dates and sharp bullaces, 

Rare pears and greengages, 

Damsons and bilberries, 

Currants and gooseberries, 

Bright-fire-like barberries, 

Figs to fill your mouth, 

Citrons from the South.

All ripe together 

In summer weather.

Sweet to tongue and sound to eye; 

Come buy, come buy.

Look at our apples 

Russet and dun, 

Bob at our cherries, 

Bite at our peaches, 

Citrons and dates, 

Grapes for the asking, 

Pears red with basking 

Out in the sun, 

Plums on their twigs; 

Pluck them and suck them, 

Pomegranates, figs. 

Christina Rossetti (from Goblin Market)



Come, follow me by the smell,

Here are delicate onions to sell;

I promise to use you well.

They make the blood warmer,

You'll feed like a farmer;

For this is every cook's opinion,

No savoury dish without an onion;

But, lest your kissing should be spoil'd,

Your onions must be thoroughly boil'd:

Or else you may spare

Your [lover] a share,

The secret will never be known:

She cannot discover

The breath of her lover,

But think it as sweet as [their] own.

Jonathan Swift (from Verses Made for Fruit Women)



Come buy my fine wares,

Plums, apples, and pears.

A hundred a penny,

In conscience too many:

Come, will you have any?

Be not sparing,

Leave off swearing.

Buy my herring

Fresh from Malahide,

Better never was tried.

Ripe 'sparagrass

Fit for lad or lass,

To make their water pass:

O, 'tis pretty picking

With a tender chicken!

Charming oysters I cry:

My masters, come buy,

So plump and so fresh,

So sweet is their flesh,

No Colchester oyster

Is sweeter and moister:

Your stomach they settle,

And rouse up your mettle:

They'll make you a dad

Of a lass or a lad;

And madam your wife

They'll please to the life!

Jonathan Swift (from Verses Made for Fruit Women)


Melons and Plums

[We] ate and ate [our] fill, 

[But our] mouth[s] water still.

Have done with sorrow; 

I’ll bring you plums to-morrow 

Fresh on their mother twigs, 

Cherries worth getting; 

You cannot think what figs 

My teeth have met in, 

What melons icy-cold 

Piled on a dish of gold 

Too huge for me to hold.

Pellucid grapes without one seed: 

Odorous indeed must be the mead 

Whereon they grow, and pure the wave they drink 

With lilies at the brink, 

And sugar-sweet their sap.

[We] suck’d and suck’d and suck’d the more 

Fruits which that unknown orchard bore.

Have done with sorrow; 

I’ll bring you plums to-morrow. 

Come buy, come buy!

Christina Rossetti (from Goblin Market)


"The London Oriana Choir has an excellent track record in not forgetting the forgotten. Women’s music has long been central to their concert-making. Their latest venture, five15, is to commission 15 works by five women composers, over five years. On Tuesday at St Martin-in-the-Fields, they gave the world premiere of Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s joyful and rampant The Food of Love – settings of texts by Christina Rossetti and Jonathan Swift – celebrating onions, oysters, melons, plums and other gourmand delights. It was an earthy prelude to an accomplished performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, conducted by Dominic Peckham." Fiona Maddocks, The Observer