I'm finishing up Songs for Genie, a work for two-part treble or SA voices as well as two-part men's voices and piano. These three works were written for three skill levels: Marmalade Maddy for beginning singers with text by the composer and Karen Skirvin (includes performance options), The Fog for intermediate singers with text by Carl Sandburg, and Tyger, Burning Bright for intermediate to advanced singers with text by William Blake. These feline-themed songs were written to honor the memory of Genie, a beloved, gentle creature who shared my home, my music studio, and my heart.
My piece Winter Circle was part of the Washington ACDA Summer Institute reading session 2021 that features Northwest composers. I'm using the video of the performance by the Northwest Girlchoir for the session. The piece was written for younger singers and is all about the names of the six stars that make up the asterism called the Winter Circle. See listing in the Treble Voices catalog for more information.
I'm thrilled to report that my work Winter Scenes, a setting of a four-part poem by Bliss Carman, has been accepted into the Project : Encore catalog of contemporary choral works. This is the 12th work that has been so honored. This work was commissioned and premiered in May 2016 by the Utah Chamber Artists, Barlow Bradford, Artistic Director. Bliss Carman’s poem, The Winter Scene, is in four parts, each a particular description of winter’s physical and emotional state. I renamed the piece as Winter Scenes and honored that division in this four-movement work scored for chorus, string orchestra, and piano. To recognize the difference in the four movements, each setting has a different compositional approach and voicing: movements I and IV are scored for SATB divisi, movement II is scored for SSAA, and movement III is scored for TTBB. While not technically a double-chorus work, the resources for performance are similar. Approximate times for the individual movements are: Movement I (Shuddering Stars) – 5:40; Movement II (Unfaltering Fire): 4:00; Movement III (Strange Twilight): 4:00; Movement IV (Dusky Gold): 5:06. For more information, check out the catalog listing under All Voicings or Mixed Voices.
I finished the Sandburg commission and sent it off at the beginning of January 2021. There is no definite performance date as yet given the ongoing Covid-19 situation. But in a good scenario, it's looking like fall of this year or spring of next for the premiere. The director is very pleased with the work, and, frankly, so am I. So looking forward to hearing Utah Chamber Artists perform it!
To catch up a bit about Project : Encore, two more of my works have been selected for inclusion in the juried catalog as follows:
I'm beginning to catch up on some smaller projects I set aside while completing my work on Sandburg Songs including putting finishing touches on two movements of my Songs for Genie suite, written for young singers. Hope to complete that work soon. I'm revising Winter Peace, which was originally premiered as a work for SSATBB, piano, and handbells. In the new versions, the accompaniment will be one-piano, four-hands and the voicing for SSATBB, SSA, or TBB.
'm thrilled to report that my work Winter Scenes has been accepted into the Project : Encore catalog of contemporary choral works. This is the 12th work that has been so honored. This work was commissioned and premiered by the Utah Chamber Artists, Barlow Bradford, Artistic Director.
I am thrilled and honored to announce that I’ve been selected as the recipient of The American Prize in Composition for 2020 in the shorter choral works division.
Earlier this spring, I was selected as a Finalist for The American Prize in choral composition. More updates on this later.
I've begun work on the Sandburg commission. The working title is, "Sandburg Songs." I'm thrilled to be writing this piece for performance by the renowned Utah Chamber Artists under the direction of Dr. Barlow Bradford.
I posted a new a cappella work, Winter's Cloak, that is scored for SSAA with divisi. Please see the catalog for more information.
I'm in the process of uploading more choral works. I'll post more information as I upload the individual scores.
I've been selected as a 2020 semi-finalist in the composers of choral music, professional division, for The American Prize. I submitted the following compositions: Alchemy; There will come soft rains; Fontainebleau and Arcturus in Autumn, two movements from "Stars forever, while we sleep"; and Dusky Gold, the fourth movement of "Winter Scenes." More information here: The American Prize Semi-Finalists, Choral Division.
In negotiations for a commission to set poems by Sandburg to be scored for mixed chorus, string orchestra, and piano, with a premiere in spring 2021. Very exciting!
Completed Winter Peace, a Lullaby, which will be performed this year in December. See Concerts page for more information.
Completed the third and final movement of Songs for Genie. Now working on polishing all three movements.
Working on completing Winter Peace, a Lullaby, which will be performed this year.
Two movements for Songs for Genie are now substantially complete, and I'm working on the third and final movement. I may post this piece on Consortio as a joint commission opportunity. If you're interested in seeing a draft copy for the first two movements, please use the Contact form to contact me.
The score for Canticles of Crimson is now available in my catalog as an electronic download. Use the email contact form to request a review copy or copies for performance. Printed copies are also now available through J.W. Pepper HERE.
I started work on a new piece for SSA or treble choir, piano, cello, and handbells (or hand chimes). It's called Winter Peace, a Lullaby. As the name suggests, it's a tranquil work that describes the peace of winter through images of nature.
I recently discovered a two-part article about creating an immersive experimental reality piece that used my work Fear No More as the sound track. Fascinating blog about how the video was created an d the challenges involved. Here are links to the two-part blog:
The video was shot using a stereoscopic camera, which shoots in 360 degrees and in 3D. For best viewing experience, watch this video on your phone. If you have Google Cardboard or a similar VR headset, just hit the cardboard button on the lower right corner of your YouTube player. Here's the final virtual reality video on YouTube:
I completed the work on Canticles of Crimson and handed off the scores to the director of Kirkland Choral Society, Dr. Glenn Gregg. I'm looking forward to the rehearsal process and, of course, to hearing its premiere in late February 2019.
My work Alchemy was recently selected for performance at the 2019 SCI Region VI Conference in April. Part of the requirements for performance include attendance by the composer. Unfortunately, I am unable to attend the conference and the piece likely will not be performed. Still, it was heartening to see that this piece was anonymously selected from among the nearly 300 pieces submitted.
I started a new work, Songs for Genie, to memorialize my cat who passed away in April 2018. Genie was a splendid and dearly loved companion, and I am writing a set of three pieces in her memory. The first movement is a setting of the Carl Sandburg poem Fog: "The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on." I anticipate adding two more movements. These are settings for treble voices, two-part, with piano accompaniment.
Scored for Soprano, SATB (some divisi), and piano, Curve of Gold 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. Performance time is approximately 12:30 m/s. This setting of Sara Teasdale poems explores love's journey through four vignettes. The set opens with the tale of ephemeral love, comparing the eternal cycles of the moon to the brevity of love. 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. For a YouTube version of this work, click or tap this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEhr0g0ed0A.
Started work on Canticles of Crimson. The six poems I've chosen form a kind of narrative that explores a life journey through memory, love, loss, and acceptance. Here's the poem for the movement titled "Your eyes and the valley":
Your eyes and the valley
from "Valley Song", published in Sandburg's book of poetry, Cornhuskers
Your eyes and the valley are memories.
Your eyes fire and the valley a bowl.
It was here a moonrise crept over the timberline.
It was here we turned the coffee cups upside down.
And your eyes and the moon swept the valley.
I will see you again tomorrow.
I will see you again in a million years.
I will never know your dark eyes again.
These are three ghosts I keep.
These are three sumach-red dogs I run with.
All of it wraps and knots to a riddle:
I have the moon, the timberline, and you.
All three are gone—and I keep all three.
The following works are premieres and/or commissioned works so far in 2018:
In February and March, Seattle Pro Musica performed Fear No More, a commissioned work written for SATB a cappella chorus with text from William Shakespeare's play Cymbeline. In all, the work was performed in four concert settings. HERE is a Soundcloud link to a live performance.
On Valentine's Day, Scott Kovacs, renowned bass-baritone, performed the premiere of Through Love's Eyes, a work scored for baritone and piano. This is a setting of text from various Shakespeare plays. HERE is a YouTube link to the performance.
Opus 7 premiered Weathered Days, a setting of poems by Gordon E. Abshire for a cappella SATB chorus in early May.
Canticles of Crimson, settings in five movements of Carl Sandburg poems and scored for mixed chorus, soprano solo, and piano, was commissioned by Kirkland Choral Society. The premiere is slated for February 2019.
This five-movement work sets the poetry of the early 20th-century American poet Sara Teasdale whose poems all refer to the stars above and use these celestial bodies to explore the human condition. For more information, access the links or explore the Catalog listing for this work.
In addition, this month I received permission to set the poem Winter's Cloak to music and am finishing up this commission for SSAA voicing.
Clear evening 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 December 2017 ACDA Choral Journal publication, page 83.
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.
The following information is available on the "All Voicings" and "Mixed Voices" web pages:
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.
Completed a commission for Seattle Pro Musica, a setting of the threnody from William Shakespeare's play Cymbeline, scored for a cappella SATB ensemble and written for the Sounds and Sweet Airs concert as part of the Seattle Celebrates Shakespeare Festival in 2018. Three concerts are slated:
March 11, 2018 - 7:30pm - Trinity Lutheran Church, Lynnwood
March 17, 2018 - 7:30 pm - Seattle First Baptist Church
March 18, 2018 - 3:00 pm - Faith Lutheran Church, Redmond
There will come soft rains is featured in the June/July 2017 edition of the ACDA Choral Journal as part of the PROJECT : ENCORE entry. For more information, click or tap the following links:
Following is a description that is published in the June/July 2017 ACDA Choral Journal publication, page 79.
The following information can also be found on the "All Voicings" and "Mixed Voices" webpages.
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.
ArtsWA provided a grant to The Esoterics to support the commissioning of new works and production of the December 2016 concert TEASDALE: Across the endless spaces, choral music by Donald Skirvin that was inspired by the writings of Sara Teasdale.