“Stars Over Snow” Premiere + Recording

Last Friday night, I had the opportunity to hear BYU Singers perform the world premiere of “Stars Over Snow.” It was incredible. The performance was electric and the reception was very warm. I’m still buzzing from what a beautiful night it was.

Night
by Sara Teasdale

Stars over snow,
And in the west a planet
Swinging below a star—
Look for a lovely thing and you will find it,
It is not far—
It never will be far.

Here is a recording:

Stars Over Snow – Barlow Endowment Commission Finished!

I realize that it has been a LOOOOOOOOOONG time since I last posted. I’m trying to make up for that.

Back in August, I was awarded a commission by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University. The commission was an a cappella choral piece between 5 and 8 minutes for the Brigham Young University Singers to take on tour to China. I’ve been working on it quite a bit ever since. At first, Dr. Staheli (who was going to premiere the piece) suggested that I write a mood piece with a few words, rather than setting a narrative poem. I worked on that for a few solid months and wasn’t really happy with what was happening.

I don’t like sending sketches or early drafts of my work to anybody. I try and wait until a piece is “finished” or at least thoroughly constructed before delivering it. However, because things weren’t really gelling on this piece, I decided to sent it to Dr. Staheli anyway. After sending it by email I got a call soon afterwards. After some reassuring/loving disclaimers he simply said, “It’s not working.” We talked for a bit and he pretty much vocalized all of my own doubts about the work. I was very grateful to get such honest and open feedback from a person I trust so implicitly.

We talked about possible solutions and we both agreed that the best course of action was to start over. We talked about possible texts, bounced around some possibilities and eventually he recommended a six-line poem by Sara Teasdale. It’s been a personal favorite of mine called “Night.”

Stars over snow,
And in the west a planet
Swinging below a star—
Look for a lovely thing and you will find it,
It is not far—
It never will be far.

– Sara Teasdale

Eventually, work began on the piece which was going much better than before. I see the poem in two halves of three lines each and structured the piece accordingly. The second half simply expounds on the first half. Seek out that which is beautiful, true, and uplifting and it will be abundant. It reminds me of a quote by Henri Matisse: “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” It’s also closely related to these words by Leonardo da Vinci: “There are three classes of people: those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see.” I often find myself in those last two classes.

I’ve finished the piece and BYU Singers is currently rehearsing it. I’ve already had some great conversations about making little changes here and there to polish out all the rough spots. The premiere will be on Friday, March 13th (yes, Friday the 13th) in the de Jong Concert Hall at BYU. I’ll be there in person!

In the meantime, here are the first two pages:

StarsOverSnow1

StarsOverSnow2

Recordings of “Dormi Jesu” & “I Wonder as I Wander”

Here are the recordings of the two pieces premiered this month: “Dormi Jesu” performed by Cantorum, and “I Wonder as I Wander” performed by the Combined Choirs & Philharmonic Orchestra at BYU. I was so happy with how both of these turned out and learned a lot while writing both.

Hope you enjoy them and share them with everyone you know! Happy/Merry Christmas!

New Piece “I Wonder as I Wander”

Last March, during the ACDA convention in Dallas, Dr. Staheli and I met up and talked about the possibility of writing an arrangement for the combined choirs and philharmonic at BYU for their annual Christmas concert. After a few ideas, we settled on an arrangement of “I Wonder as I Wander,” based on an Appalachian folk hymn.

I love the haunting, reflective feeling of this Christmas hymn. The themes of solitude, pondering, awe, and grace are the feelings I associate most with Christmas. Yes, the jubilance, and cheer of Christmas is also important and inviting, but I find myself still drawn to the warmth of this hymn over and over again. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like Christmas is coming until I hear this specific song.

I’m very excited to hear this! If the concert isn’t already sold out, you should attend!
Preview of “I Wonder as I Wander (Orchestra)”

The Pilgrim’s Journey Home

It looks like Ireland!!! (Which is where we went on tour after this filming)

Back in my first year of BYU Singers we spent a gagillion hours preparing for this PBS broadcast called “The Pilgrim’s Journey Home.”  It was many hours of blood, sweat and tears making this broadcast what we wanted it to be.  In addition to the broadcast is the recording that accompanies it.  The DVD is all right, not a big deal for me, but this record is something I’m really quite proud of.  BYU Singers contributed two solo songs for the program, one of them being Dr. Staheli’s arrangement of “I Feel Like I’m on My Journey Home.”  I LOVE this song and especially this arrangement.  There are very few other pieces that speak to me to the same degree.  Let’s put it this way: It’s one of the songs I want played at my funeral.

The performance of this piece has got to be one of the most spiritual experiences of my life.  First of all, the musicality and sound of this performance had reached a whole new level of maturity, even from the previous week.  Second, I had just finished being incredibly sick earlier that week.  It was like waking up after your head had been in a paint mixer the whole night.  It also happened to be after a whole night of terrible nightmares that seemed to continue for endless hours.  It was a tremendous challenge, but after sufficient rest and spiritual counseling, I was able to get out of bed, put on a tux and sing this music.  It was a miracle.

In addition to what BYU Singers performed there are two other songs on here that are quite special.  Their two piece written by good friends of mine: Daniel McDavitt and Jared Oaks.  The first is “The Promised Land,” by Daniel.  It was written for Concert Choir the year previous that I had the opportunity to premiere.  It’s an incredible piece that’s so well crafted.  The second is “Pilgrims on a Journey,” by Jared.  This was written for the Women’s Chorus and features the cello studio here at BYU with Julie Beven playing the solo.  The first time we in the choirs heard this piece, we were stunned at its beauty.  It’s a really remarkable setting of fantastic words.

You can now buy it here on iTunes.