Workshop in Oregon

IMG_2895
I had a really wonderful experience this last weekend. I was invited by Carol Stenson from South Salem High School to visit and give a clinic to her choir. They were singing “Everyone Sang” getting ready for State and wanted my help in performing it. One of my friends from Portland told me that this high school was well known in the area for its choir. Fly to Oregon and work with a great high school choir on “Everyone Sang?” Yes please!

I love Oregon, but had only been to Ashland for the Shakespeare Festival and hadn’t been to Portland or Salem. Driving through the area reminded me a lot of Ireland and took me back there instantly. The green, the weather, the scenery, the hills and the Portland waterfront; It all brought back great memories.

As far as the actual workshop/clinic is concerned, I had a BLAST! To be honest, it was my first clinic so I was nervous and not sure how it would turn out, but Carol Stenson was such a gracious host and very welcoming. The students were well-prepared, flexible, and very willing to work. They were all engaged, bright-eyed, and hard-working. Every time I challenged them, they answered back with lots of energy and excitement. IMG_2928We worked on “Everyone Sang” for almost two hours and didn’t even feel fatigued. Such exciting work!

After lunch we worked on “Os justi” by Anton Bruckner. That was exciting! We got to talk about Bruckner, his life and music, the Cecilian Society, the mode, the golden mean, as well as the meaning behind the text. It was greatly rewarding to work on such incredible music with this choir!

Incredibly grateful for this experience and wish South Salem High the best of luck at State very soon! My only complaint is that it was much too short.

Need New Music? Hire Me!

School is finally out here at SC, and now that task of looking for summer work is in full swing. I’ve been looking around at some interesting jobs, but really, I’d rather be writing music for your choir.

I’ve been commissioned before by the BYU Singers, BYU Men’s Chorus, and the Chancel Choir of St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas. I’ve loved working on each of these ensembles and these recipients have been very pleased with the resulting pieces. I’ve been able to write more complicated works that are challenging (in a good way) as well as pieces that are accessible for  less-experienced singers. By the way, these four commissions were all delivered earlier than their proposed date of delivery.

These commissioned pieces include:

“Everyone Sang” 

“I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go”

“Press Forward, Saints,” 

and “The Pure River Flows” 

By the way, you don’t have to direct a choir in order to commission a new piece of music. There are plenty of cases of people commissioning new music as a birthday present or anniversary gift for a loved one or spouse. I can then get it recorded with the gracious help of the USC Chamber Singers. It’s a one of a kind gift that no one else has. Now that’s romantic.

So, if you are in need of any new music, feel free to contact me and we can get a conversation started.

ACDA in Dallas

Park-Horizontal1-1024x409

Oh my flippin’ heck.  Easters is over and has finally concluded my last three weeks of whirlwind ALL THE THINGS! (Can’t brain, I have the dumb). Do I actually have a few minutes to myself here? I wanted to take some time and reflect on my thoughts and experiences at ACDA a few weeks ago in Dallas.

First off, it was great (SURPRISE!).  I love geeking out during these things. Seeing gaggles of friends both old and new is always a great time for me. I also like seeing all the new music that’s available, combing through books and octavos, and dropping WAY too much money on very heavy purchases (I think I’ll start measuring my purchases in pounds rather than dollars). Combine that with a bunch of choir nerds swarming through several venues like locusts o’er the land is a sight to behold. Above all though, the company of friends is something I greatly cherish.

Rather than write in long (boring) paragraphs, I’ll just distill most everything into bullet points. It’ll be easier to digest (although you still might get heartburn):

  • morton-h-meyerson-symphony-center-95My priority lies with the performances. I try to attend every single performance I can. What I look for most in a good performance is choice of repertoire, communicating the spirit of the music and text, and tone (in that order). I felt that there were several choirs that filled all three, and many more that filled 2 out of 3. There were MANY great offerings.
  • The Meyerson Concert Hall was by far the better venue. If I saw a choir in the Winspear, I tried to give them room for the unforgiving acoustic. I’ve been there, and I know what it feels like to work really hard for a conference performance only to feel as though you’re singing into cotton.
  • If someone had brought a fruit/veg truck outside the concert halls, they would have made bank.
  • For me, there is a huge difference between seeking to impress and seeking to express. Some choirs came to do the former, others the latter. You could smell which it was the moment they walked on stage.
  • Out of the 200 pieces (I counted) performed during the main performance sessions, only 16 (8%) were from year 1750 and earlier.  Out of those 16 only 6 (3%) were from the Renaissance. As far as I can tell, there was nothing performed from the classical era. I believe that the lifeblood of any art form is its new works, but I also believe that some of the best new works come from looking back at earlier masters. As a friend mentioned to me, “Renaissance and early baroque is an era that instrumentalists just don’t have much to work with. Why would choral musicians choose not to exploit that?” For me it’s not a matter of specializing in that music but acknowledging it as our heritage. There is more music written for the human voice than any other instrument, much of it comes from these earlier eras.
  • IMG_0033Incidentally, There were a few very interesting choices made when performing music from the Renaissance. Some choirs held that literature at arms length and weren’t very successful with it. Few ensembles actually embraced it with open arms and made it their own. Obviously, this is related to the bullet point just above. Renaissance Music is still considered too remote by most of us to really dig deep into its wells. We need to fix this.
  • I’m also seeing a somewhat troubling trend towards the gimmick. Rather than talking about the lit, spirit, or tone, we’re talking about the gimmick. Red flag.
  • Went to hear Dale Warland speak. Took away two great points: One of the most important places to put your attention with a choir is in it’s literature. Selecting, studying, finding literature is one of the most important places to put your energy.  Second, We need a good mix of the old and the new. In Dale’s opinion (the man who commissioned and premiered DOZENS of new pieces), we neglect the old far too often.
  • Cal-State Fullerton – Bold program choices. Wonderful spirit.  Beautiful tone.  I loved how they moved from the Pärt Berliner Mass right into Bach’s Christ lag in Todesbanden without a break.  Also, their performances of excerpts from O’Regan’s Tryptych were some of the best I’ve heard. Very proud to call them a neighbor here in LA.
  • Pacific Lutheran University – Hands down, one of the finest ensembles of the entire conference. Just spell binding from the very first piece.
  • San Antonio Chamber Choir – The highlights for me here were the Britten (A.M.D.G. . . so difficult!), Brahms (with very, very little vibrato) and “Mille regretz” by Rindfleisch (heart-wrenchingly beautiful).
  • Downtown_Dallas_Arts_District-1Other honorable mentions include: Marcus High School Varsity Treble Choir, University of Philippines Madrigal Singers, University of North Texas, Crystal Children’s Choir, Houston Chamber Choir, University of Louisville Cardinal Singers, and the Florida State University Singers.
  • The Tallis Scholars were outstanding. I absolutely love listening to them sing and try and listen to them live as often as I am able. Talk about a choir that sings early music with real, full tone. No kid gloves. Nothing brittle or wimpy. Just true, clean, full tone. Love it. (P.S. When are you going to release the recording of Gabriel Jackson’s new piece?!)
  • The Mormon Choral Organizations simply knocked it out of the park. I walked in with skepticism, but was quickly proven wrong. It was impressive from beginning to end. The highlight for me were choral/orchestral transcriptions of Liszts transcriptions of Schumann’s “Widmung” and Schubert’s “Erlkönig.” Thrilling music and so tastefully orchestrated. For “Erlkönig,” they had the children sing the son’s part, the men sing the Father’s part, the women sing the elf-king’s part on the combined men and women sing the narrator. Totally effective. If you didn’t see this, you missed out big time.

Dnews Craig Jessop Tabernacle ChoirThe climax of the entire conference for me was the Britten War Requiem. I must start by explaining that I don’t enjoy much of Britten’s music. I admire it, respect it, and recognize the genius of it, but I just don’t really enjoy it.  Much of the time, to me, if comes off as “overly studied” and “cold” (no matter how many times I say this, people somehow try and convince me that my tastes are “wrong”). The same goes for the War Requiem. I’ve studied it a few times and every time I hear it mentioned, I break out in hives.

Nevertheless, I wanted to hear it in person and experience it for myself. I sat with a friend of mine who feels the same way about Britten that I do. We were both moved very much after that performance. All we could really say afterwards was, “Do you like this better after hearing it in person?” Yes. Oh yes indeed. Do I enjoy it more? Not so much. Do I love it more? Yes. It was a magnificent, chilling, powerful, evocative performance. Few other performances have moved me to that extent. Stanford Olsen’s performance was soul-shattering. So much of the mood was dependent upon him and he delivered every time.

The real hero of the night though was Craig Jessop.  I’ve seen him conduct MANY times before, this was absolutely his best. A servent of the score, he stayed calm and collected while unleashing heaven and hell upon all of us in attendance. He didn’t spare us one iota of what Britten intended. At the conclusion of the performance, after he released the choir from their final chord, he held the silence in that hall for what seemed like forever. No one in the Meyerson dared to breath until Jessop put his arms down. I felt like I was going to suffocate. It was the most silent I’ve been with so many people. It was a performance that left you weary and defeated, but never more grateful. Jessop never really took a bow for himself, he just kept acknowledging others. I just looked at him and said to myself, “That’s the kind of conductor I want to be like.” It was a night that we will remember for a very long time.

lineup

“The Pure River Flows” Premiere + Everyone Sang Now Available

sanctuary

Hey Friends,

A week from tomorrow, my new commission, “The Pure River Flows,” will be premiered at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas the day after ACDA wraps up.  I’m very excited to finally hear this brought to life by the Choir there under the direction of Chris Crook!  It’s going to be a great time I can tell.  In other news, I will also be performing a solo at the same service!  I will be singing “I Stand All Amazed.”

In addition to all of this, “Everyone Sang” is now available for purchase through Hal Leonard’s website as well as through JW Pepper. It will be available for purchase at ACDA in Dallas this next week!  If you’re attending, I’ll see you there!

Everyone Sang pg 1

“Everyone Sang” to Be Published with Walton Music

I think I forgot to mention about a month ago that “Everyone Sang” was accepted to be published with Walton Music next year.  It was about a month ago and I made a big deal about it on Facebook but forgot to post anything here about it.  Whoops!  So yeah, the contract is signed and returned.  It’s official!

We’ve already started working on the first proof.  I suspect this wont take too long.  Who knows, we might even see a copy of it at ACDA in Dallas! *Fingers crossed*

Everyone Sang

“Everyone Sang” Performance This Weekend

This weekend is the Fall concert of BYU Singers and BYU Concert Choir.  BYU Singers will be performing “Everyone Sang” as part of their sets.  I’m so glad that this piece gets to be performed for the fourth and fifth time now by this remarkable ensemble.  A lot of people have been saying some very kind things about this piece.  What I’m most happy about is that people from all sorts of backgrounds and levels of choral experience have told me how much they enjoy it.  I’m glad I can satisfy the amateur as well as the professional.

You should also go to hear the magnificent Concert Choir and all the wonderful things they are performing, including “O Magnum Mysterium” by both Tomas Luis de Victoria and Ola Gjeilo.  It promises to be a beautiful night.

Here’s another piece that is being performed during that concert by BYU Singers.  “O Sapientia” by Bob Chilcott performed “flash-mob-style” in the Harold B. Lee Library: