Big Update

So, This last week I spent indoors most of the time finishing up: 1. A three voice fugue for my counterpoint class (brain hurts so bad), 2. My study, analysis and practice of a piece by Brahms and a piece by Schvedov, and 3. My semester-long, study and compilation of 400 pieces of music for my choral lit class, plus a written final that took 2.25 hours.

Before that was done, my piece “Midnight Clear,” was broadcast on Performance Today hosted by Fred Child.  It was thrilling yet again to be feature on such a prestigious program.  The most shocking thing this time was to have Fred Child quote parts of my blog back to me!  Now granted, this isn’t this first time this has happened, but it’s a different story when it’s on National Radio!  Talking about my head exploding had me laughing out loud (and my roommate wondering what was wrong with me).  But I guess it goes to show that the people at Performance Today actually try and get their info from the proper sources.  I’ll just need to be more careful about what I write on this blog!  Thanks again Fred (’cause I know you read this)!

I also got to do a little weekend trip to Tabiona while grading exams, replacing a flat tire, turning 4 performance editions into the Bookstore for distribution and buying a heavy winter coat.  It was awesome, bonfire, graham-cracker houses, Elf, sleeping in.

The winter coat was for my Christmas trip out here to Ukraine (did I mention I’m in Ukraine?).  I’m here to visit my parents for Christmas.  It’s pretty fun, although the flights out were terrible.  All were delayed except one, and had to travel through two Ukrainian airports (note: one is more than enough).  Only got two hours of sleep in the trans-Atlantic flight so I’m totally out of it right now.  But now I’m with my parents and that’s cool.

The saddest part of this last week was having the Provo Tabernacle burn down in a fire Friday morning, December 17th.  This has been a landmark and a symbol to the community of so many thing.  It was built back in the 1890s by relatively inexperienced American Pioneers.  I’ve performed in this hall numerous times and had life-changing experiences in its walls, as well as having written a research paper about the place.  To see it all gone up in flames is quite difficult.  Even seeing it in person doesn’t feel real.  I hope something is rebuilt in its place, it would be a shame if the place was left vacant.

This Just In: “Midnight Clear” to be Rebroadcast Nationally on “Performance Today”

Last year, BYU Singers premiered my setting of “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.”  It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.  Dr. Staheli did a fantastic job interpreting the piece and the Singers made it sound so gorgeous.  Soon after, I discovered that BYU Radio (which broadcast the concert world wide) sent the recording to American Public Media’s Performance Today, hosted by Fred ChildPerformance Today is easily one of the most respected, nationally broadcast radio programs in America with about 1.3 million listeners a week.  Needless to say, I about died when I was told that “Midnight Clear,”would be given this unbelievable honor.

"Performance Today" host Fred Child.

Well now, I just found out that “Midnight Clear” will be rebroadcast on Performance Today on December 16th.  I’m not exactly sure when, but sometime during their two hours.  You can go to their website and listen to it streaming online.  I’m so thrilled that this piece has a lasting impression on people and that it’s not just a one time fling.  Thank you Fred Child (I know you’re not the only one who makes the calls over there, but thanks anyway)!

By the way, just a friendly reminder that “Midnight Clear” will is published with Walton Music and will be available through Hal Leonard distribution next year!  Exciting!

Update:  It’ll be broadcast during the last ten minutes of the first hour.  So 6:50 to 7:00 PM Mountain time (i think).

Friends Don’t Let Friends Write Flagged Eighth Notes

So this is a little rant/soapbox kind of post about the way that some people write choral music.  Some of these little pet peeves involve certain engraving styles used mostly during the last century.  Mostly it’s because we learned a better way, but just this week I got some music from this decade was still written in this old style.  What am I talking about and why am I so peeved about this?  It’s flagged eighth notes in choral music, and it’s a pain to read.

Back in the day, choral music was written with flagged eighth notes.  This was mainly to show that the music was syllabic in nature as opposed to melismatic (one syllable for multiple notes).  When melismas needed to be written, then engravers would beam those eighth notes to show which notes shared the same syllable.  While this made sense at the time, practically it was a nightmare for vocalists everywhere.  Most other music is written so that beams indicate groupings of subdivisions of the beats.  It’s much easier to read and makes sense when you need to quickly learn rhythms.  That’s how almost all of us learned to read music.  Then when we move to choral music and those rules involving beamed eighth notes are gone, we’re confused.  Flagged eighth notes are also harder on the eye and easy to get lost in.

Flagged eighth notes are of the devil and very difficult to read. A lot of older choral music is written this way.

Today, we beam all our eighth notes to show the rhythmic groupings rather than the syllabic divisions.  It’s much easier to sight read and it’s consistent with instrumental music (that most of us learn on).  When multiple notes are sung on the same syllable (melismas) the notes are slurred.  It’s similar to the way string music is written to indicated how many notes are on the same bow, or wind music to indicate how many notes have the same attack.  It’s much easier to read (especially at first glance) and life is so much easier for the singer, who, let’s face it, doesn’t have the best rhythm anyway.

Beamed eighth notes are much easier to read and understand.

My point is, why do people still write and engrave their music the other way?  Singers read the music much worse, it takes up unnecessary time trying to figure out and in the end, we usually just try and beam it ourselves with our pencils (making an even messier score).  I can understand that some folks writing scholarly editions of older music need it to be a close to original as possible and choose to use this approach.  However, if you’re making performance editions of this earlier music, it needs to be written with the modern performer in mind.

So, don’t let your friends write flagged eighth notes in their choral music.

Also, another short little pet peeve:  When people write “div.” (divide) and “unis.” (unify) into their choral music when it divides.  This is practice carried over from writing string music where it’s possible for one instrument to play multiple notes via double/triple/quadruple stops.  These marks are used to indicate where the composer whats the section to divide rather than play a double/triple/quadruple stop.

Redundant "div." and "unis." markings

In choral music though, this is absolutely redundant seeing as unless you’re this guy, you can’t sing two different notes at once.  Of course we are going to divide!

Anyway, I’m off my soapbox now.

Repertoire for University Chorale

After a long, uphill battle choosing repertoire for University Chorale this semester I finally have the program finished.  I think it works well and will be embraced by the singers (at least that’s the hope!).  It took a while, but I finally feel good about what I’ve got:

Gloria (from Missa in Tempore Belli “Paukenmesse”)    Josef Haydn

The Light of the World
O nata lux                            Thomas Tallis
Christ the Lord is Risen Today                arr. Joseph M. Hoffman
O Thou that art the Light                    Gabriel Jackson

Lovesong Waltzes (Liebesliederwaltzer) Johannes Brahms
No. 9 “Am Donaustrande”
(On Danube’s border)
No. 11 “Nein, Es Ist Nicht Auszukommen”
(No, I will not listen to them)
No. 15     “Nachtigall, Sie Singt So Schön”
(Nightingale, you sing so sweet)

Scoundrels and Scallywags
False Sir John                        Daniel Burton
High Barbary                            arr. Gregg Smith

I’ve sent in the order for all the published music and am now working on working editions for the public domain music.  For me, the Monteverdi Choir, led by Sir John Eliot Gardiner saved the day.  Their recording of the 6 great masses of Haydn has been a LIFESAVER in this situation.  Not to mention that’s it just a killer recording in the first place.