Catalog of Selected Works for Mixed Voices
The following scores are available through online publishers as well as from the composer in some instances. See Publisher information on Contact page for publisher links, or click or tap the underlined publisher name below, which will take you to a list of my works. Not all works from a publisher's catalog are listed on this web page. In the following alphabetical web page list, the abbreviations refer to the following publishers:
JWP - J. W. Pepper
SMP - SheetMusicPlus
YRM - Yelton Rhodes Music
SPC - Self-published by composer
Click or tap the underlined publisher abbreviations (JWP, SMP, and YRM) that are associated with each piece, and you'll be linked to the piece itself on each publisher site.
Perusal score downloads are available for selected SPC pieces. Look for NEW → , which highlights the new downloads.
- A -
Just as the ancient practice of alchemy endeavored to turn dross into gold, this set of Teasdale poems traces through its four movements a series of poetic and musical transformations along life's journey: grief turns into gold, impermanence and the fear of loss transform into love, a sheen of iridescence is conveyed to us by our lovers, and finally, the ultimate transformation occurs when we pursue the path that beauty unfolds for us. The meter and rhythm are derived from speech. This piece contains many instances of jazz-based harmonies, which results in a colorful harmonic palette.
Alchemy is a popular piece, especially with university ensembles and skilled community choruses. For a review of this work, which was featured as a noteworthy piece in a Chorus America column, click or tap HERE.
Alchemy was selected for inclusion in the prestigious PROJECT : ENCORE catalog of contemporary choral works. For more information, click or tap the following links:
Following is a description that is published in the October 2017 ACDA Choral Journal publication, page 75.
Arcturus in Autumn
Movement 6 from Stars forever, while we sleep
This piece explores Sara Teasdale's autumnal mood as she examines the heavens and laments how the star Arcturus, "bringer of spring," leaves the autumn skies so as not to bear witness to the withering of days. This mostly homophonic piece features harmonies alternately stark and rich that foretell the lengthening nights of autumn into winter.
Awakening is complex harmonically although basically tonal and features a tenor solo in the second movement. The focus of the first movement is the joy that comes from finding a kindred soul in a “wilderness of hostile smiles.” The second movement is a rapturous memory from youth of a night spent in a glade, witness to magical elements of nature, a glowing magenta sunset, the mysteries of night, and, finally, fragrant dawn. In the third movement, the poem expresses hopes and desires for a night together that may last a lifetime but which in any case concludes with the image of a restful place among the leaves and grasses. Robin McNeil, reviewer for Opus Colorado, had this to say about a performance of Awakening: “...one of the high points of this concert for me at least was a composition written in 2007 by Donald Skirvin entitled Awakening … which is a startlingly beautiful piece that is incredibly complex harmonically. It is in three movements and has a tenor solo in the second movement which was sung by Maestro Banks (Ed. note: the conductor of The Esoterics) as he conducted. Again Banks many skills were displayed. He didn’t just sing. He is outstanding. But I hasten to add that he was surely motivated by this beautiful piece of music written by Donald Skirvin.”
- C -
Canticles of Crimson
Canticles of Crimson sets six poems written by Carl Sandburg. The work's five movements present Sandburg’s recollections and imaginings about love (requited and unrequited), life cycles (spring through winter and the beginning of life to its end), memories, loss, and, perhaps, reconciliation if not redemption. In short, the human condition. These poems have certain commonalities and resonances that led me to select them for this work. For example, aspects of love are themes common to three poems, which begin and end the work. Structurally, the chorus is featured in two movements and the soprano soloist joins the chorus in three movements. The work runs approximately 20 minutes.
The work is available as a PDF download from the composer. To arrange for a review copy and to purchase copies of the complete work, use the email contact form. The score is also available through J.W. Pepper HERE.
Movement 2 from Stars forever, while we sleep
This movement explores Sara Teasdale's autumnal mood as she gazes into a summer's eve filled with fireflies and the scents of apple, dewy pine, and rose. The evocative atmosphere takes the chorus and audience through moods and emotions that finally resolve in spoken words, "fall asleep, fall asleep," as the singers conclude this quiet, reflective work.
Curve of Gold
This piece is a meditation on love's journey as we seek, find, and sometimes lose our way. The musical language is modern but tonal with rich chordal underpinnings and features a robust piano part. This setting of Sara Teasdale poems explores love's journey through four vignettes. The set opens with the tale of ephemeral love that compares the eternal cycles of the moon to the brevity of love itself. The second movement expresses how another's love transforms our common experience and sets the shared surroundings "delicately alight." The third movement contemplates love's loss, and the memories of kinder times. The final movement describes how we can carry love as a beacon, a lamp, through the darkness as life reaches its journey's end.
- D -
Dona eis requiem
JWP and SMP | $3.00 |SATB (SA or treble voices and TB also available) and with piano | settings of three sections from the requiem mass: Pie Jesu, Agnus Dei, and Lux Aeterna | sound files are available on the publisher web pages
Suitable for concert or service use. A modern setting, tonal, and very accessible for singers and audience or congregation.
- E -
Echoes from the Heart
The three movements of this piece represent three temporal stages: departure, arrival, and return. The first movement—Ancient roses—represents a time portal that moves us through time and memory into a Proustian past. The dream sequence of the middle movement—Longing, dreaming—explores who the dreamer is and what the dream might be. In the third movement—I remember—the shifting rhythms of the antiphony emphasize subtle changes of meaning in the same phrase. The titles of each movement are incorporated into the poems to heighten the sense of remembrance. The author's poems are rather like haiku that, in a few words, can crystallize a feeling or a thought for all time.
- F -
Fear No More
The text for this piece is taken from a threnody (a song sung in memory of the dead) whose first line is, “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,” text that is taken from Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline. The text lays out the argument against mourning and provides an elegiac injunction not to fear death but instead to find consolation in death’s “quiet consummation.” While the play itself is not often performed, the lines I have set have also inspired other composers, notably Gerald Finzi, and other English composers such as Robert Quilter and Ian Higginson to create art songs. The American composer Stephen Sondheim set two of the four stanzas as a solo for the character of William Shakespeare in his musical The Frogs. In this play, the character of Dionysus wants to hear Shakespeare speak of a young man's feelings about death. And his response is the song "Fear No More."
In this choral setting, I have followed the structure of the poem (four stanzas of six lines each) and created four sections, all of which begin a treatment of the words, “Fear no more,” that employs different voicings and registers and which is followed by thematic variations on some common elements. The final stanza is a renunciation of exorcisers, witchcraft, ghosts, and anything ill that could trouble the grave. This last segment uses new, dramatic material, and it begins and ends with a treatment of the words, “Fear no more,” which is set using an irregular time signature of 7/4 so that the rhythmic pulse becomes a temporal and spacious.
The fleeting world
Movement 3 from Songs of Enlightenment
Quiet, meditative final movement of "Songs of Enlightenment," a three-movement work of Buddhist texts and Buddhist-themed poetry. Rich harmonies and striking poetic imagery make this a memorable concert piece. The text focuses on the concept of impermanence, beginning with verses from the Buddhist scripture, The Diamond Sutra, and concluding with a setting of a poem titled "Impermanence" by the late poet, Gordon E. Abshire. The final lines are: "Cold sunset, colder river / Leaves tumble in the meadow / This season comes too soon / Night settles quickly, gently.
Movement 5 from Stars forever, while we sleep
This piece explores Sara Teasdale's autumnal mood as she contemplates French palaces and the memory of "ladies lovely and immoral" who "glide down the gilded stairs." At the end of the work, an autumn garden from centuries past is imagined along with the ghostly kings and hunters who roam through "four centuries of autumns, four centuries of leaves" as pentatonic melodies intertwine.
from Choral Nocturnes
The poem expresses the musical voice of the poet who sings of love but whose audience is a "satyr carved in stone," drowsy marble peacocks, and a heedless "great white moon."
- G -
The Giver of Stars
Setting of Amy Lowell poem of the same name that describes the rapture that derives from association with overwhelming beauty either in the abstract or, perhaps, in the joy that a personal relationship can bring. Good secular piece for community or university choruses.
- H -
Hymn to the Moon
A rich and melodic setting of a text from the Greek poet Homer as translated by Percy Bysshe Shelley. This six-part setting contains many instances of divisi resulting in a lush choral "moonscape." The ending evokes a lunar temple in which chants are offered to the Queen of the Night Sky.
- O -
Only the heart will hear
This evocation of the winter season begins with a sprightly tune that segues into a richly harmonic middle section and returns to the up-tempo melodies that began the piece. The work features six-part writing (SSATBB) and a piano part that is a reduction of the original chamber orchestra accompaniment.
- P -
Places, like music
NEW → Places, Like Music perusal rehearsal score (watermarked and with pages removed) is available for download HERE. For questions concerning cost of score, contact the composer via email on Contact page.
Sara Teasdale’s poem, Places, begins: “Places I love come back to me like music . . .” What follows is a catalog of the places and experiences of significance to the author. In setting this poem, I have used a through composed technique to provide a musical setting that varies by place and experience. For example, the final musical memory describes an ocean voyage, swelling waves, deep voices calling from the depths, and eerie phosphorescence. To capture this experience, the music creates waveforms in the lower voices while the sopranos float above the waters and carry the story to its conclusion.
- S -
The Ships of Yule
This setting of Bliss Carman's poem, "The Ships of Yule," is lively and rhythmic and contains elements of a traditional sea chantey. The music is tonal with lots of harmonic color and forays into related keys. The poem refers to Yule, and so the piece is appropriate for Christmas or winter celebrations.
Sometimes, for eternity
This work is an ode to those whose lives were well-lived in music. The setting is direct and accessible, employs rich harmonies, and is constructed with careful voice leading. The piece ends with the lyric "Each dawn: A song sparrow; On my headstone Trilling lux aeterna. Not for me; But not minding If I'd listen Sometimes For eternity."
Songs of Enlightenment
The first movement (I Take Refuge) is scored for chorus and handbells (or hand chimes) and sets several traditional Buddhist texts in both original languages (Pali and Sanskrit) and English. It concludes with an optional invitation for the audience to chant "OM" while the chorus sings. The second movement (Verses and Mantras of Compassion) sets various scriptures and mantras, some in the original languages (Japanese and Tibetan) as well as in translation to English. The third movement, The Fleeting World, opens with a quotation in English from the Diamond Sutra and continues with a setting of a poem that explores the impermanence of life in modern terms and striking imagery borrowed from a close observation of natural processes. The first two movements are undergoing revision. For a review copy of the complete work, contact the composer. The third movement, The Fleeting World, is available through J.W. Pepper.
Songs of the Equinox and Solstice
The four movements of this work describe the four seasons associated with the equinox and solstice: Spring equinox: New world; Summer solstice: Wheel of dreams; Autumn equinox: The delight song of Tsoai-talee; Winter solstice: Cedar smoke and snowflake. The first three are settings of M. Scott Momaday poems and the fourth is a setting of a poem by Gerald Hausman. May be performed as a set or as individually programmed works.
Stars forever, while we sleep
SPC |Contact composer for price | Some individual movements, which are listed separately in this alphabetical list, are available through JWP and SMP | Nine-movement a cappella work in various vocal configurations, including SATB, double-chorus, and triple-chorus movements, with an optional solo quartet in three performance versions are available from the composer: the original nine-movement version, a six-movement version, and a five-movement version |YouTube recordings are available for all separate movements; a YouTube link to the six-movement version is HERE
NEW → Six- and five-movement perusal score (watermarked and with pages removed) is available for download HERE. For questions concerning cost of score, contact the composer via email on Contact page.
...stars to hold
The piece sets the poetry of Sara Teasdale that all reference the stars above and use these celestial bodies to explore the human condition. The first movement is SATB divisi, the second through fourth movements are SSATBB plus soloist, and the fifth movement joins the soloists into a trio that sings antiphonally with the SATB divisi chorus.
- T -
There will come soft rains
There will come soft rains is from one of Teasdale's last collections of poems, Flame and Shadow. In this collection, especially in section VIII (which contains five other anti-war poems) Teasdale lamented her country's entry into World War I, and her lyric poetry became tinged with foreboding and resignation. The music setting attempts to bring the contemplative nature of this poem to the foreground. It has frequent instances of 8-part harmony and is basically tonal.
There will come soft rains is featured in the June/July 2017 edition of the ACDA Choral Journal, page 79, as part of the PROJECT : ENCORE article.
Following is a description that was published in the journal:
"Stunning setting for choirs with secure singers (some minimal 3-part divisi). Very tonal and beautifully melodic, with close (sometimes surprising) harmonic clusters. Many programming applications for this timeless text. Worth the work!
For more information, click or tap the following links:
PROJECT : ENCORE website
Obtain scores through the J.W. Pepper website or directly from the composer
- W -
from Choral Nocturnes
The settings of these five haiku-like poems form a narrative in which the first three poems are tinged with melancholy as leaves are torn from branches, memories languish, and plum blossoms offer fragrance even to the one who breaks the branch. But in the final two poems, the piece turns toward dawn and shimmering light, and the dark night passes. Rich timbres underline the spare lines of poetry. The compositional style shifts between homophonic and polyphonic passages throughout the piece.
SPC | Contact composer for price | Eight-part mixed chorus in four movements with string orchestra and piano | YouTube links to each movement are listed below:
NEW → Winter Scenes perusal rehearsal score (watermarked and with some pages removed) is available for download HERE. For questions concerning cost of rehearsal score and purchase of parts, contact the composer via email on Contact page.
This work includes an optional string prelude followed by a four-movement setting of Bliss Carman's poem, The Winter Scene. The first and last movements are scored for SATB divisi, the second movement is for SSAA, and the third is for TTBB.
SPC | Contact composer for price | double chorus (SATB with SSAA) and string orchestra and piano in three movements | YouTube links to each movement are listed below:
NEW → Wintertide perusal rehearsal score (watermarked and with some pages removed) is available for download HERE. For questions concerning cost of rehearsal score and purchase of parts, contact the composer via email on Contact page.
Wintertide explores the temporal, physical, and emotional landscape of winter, its frosty scenes, rollicking celebrations, and languorous loving to while away the season's long, dark nights. To accomplish this, the composer has selected texts as chronologically diverse as quatrains by the Latin poet Horace; a sixteenth-century poem by the Englishman, Thomas Campion; lines from Longfellow's poem, Woods in Winter; and a meditation on the winter season penned by the Canadian poet, Carman Bliss, along with other fragments of poems.
Movement 8 from Stars forever, while we sleep
This piece explores Sara Teasdale's somewhat ironic observation that "What we have never had remains; It is the things we have that go." She makes this observation in the context of an early spring night when winter is scarcely over. The piece is mostly homophonic and uses echoic phrases. The sprightly tempo somewhat belies the ironic text.
- Y -
Yet, Love Endures
In its four movements, this piece explores the trajectory of a relationship in its various moods: the joy of reunion after absence, the melancholy of disagreement, the bravery of love in the face of censure, and the endurance of love through separation and trials of life. This work is essentially tonal, requires a baritone soloist in the first movement, and employes occasional divisi.