I’m thrilled to begin two new chapters in my musical journey. This year I began serving as Assistant Conductor for Baltimore Choral Arts Society. I will continue in my role as a Vocal Fellow but now look forward to helping lead this exceptional choral organization. We received our second regional Emmy award this year (and the first in my tenure)! I have also joined the wonderful voices of the Schola Cantorum of the Baltimore Basilica (affectionately known as America’s First Cathedral). I’ve enjoyed singing with the Schola on occasion over the past couple years and am excited to regularly sing with this fine group.
Vocal Arts Ensemble of Durham gave a beautiful performance of my setting of George Moses Horton's "On the Poetic Muse" alongside works by Melissa Dunphy, Z. Randall Stroope, Jake Runestad, Adolphus Hailstork, and others in a concert at Duke University Chapel. Check out the performance below. On the Poetic Muse begins at 16:13.
I had the pleasure of introducing and leading Baltimore Choral Arts through my Gravity, for SATB chorus, piano, and water classes. Gravity was commissioned by the Chester River Chorale and was scheduled for premiere at the Kent County Poetry Festival in April 2020. Canceled due to COVID, Gravity is still awaiting its premiere. It was great to finally hear the work in the air thanks to the wonderful singers of Baltimore Choral Arts.
The choir of Grace and St. Peter's Church in Baltimore recently premiered my Missa Brevis. Led by organist and choirmaster Jordan Prescott, Grace and St. Peter's commissioned the piece for their Lenten V service.
Congratulations to the Adelphian Concert Choir for a wonderful preparation and performance of my "Fare Thee Well." This is a special piece written for a special person, Ellen Clayton, a dear friend to many in one of my own choral families, Baltimore Choral Arts.
I learned of (and quickly fell in love with) the poetry of George Moses Horton in 2016 while searching for a text to use in a 12-part a cappella work. Although I went in another direction for that project, I knew I would return to Horton's writing. I set his "On the Poetic Muse" for The Frederick Chorale in 2018, around the same time setting his "Farewell to Francis" as my "Fare Thee Well." I'm really looking forward to putting together a small collection of SATB works setting Horton's beautiful texts.
Alas! and if we sure must part,
Far separated long to dwell,
I leave there with a broken heart,
So friend, forever, fare thee well
I couldn't be more proud of and excited for one of my many talented composition students, Leo Gatty. Leo's score for the short film Backspace has been nominated for best original score in the National Youth Film Awards in England. Leo is an extremely talented musician studying at the University of Manchester. Working with students like Leo is one of the great joys I have as a teacher and composer. I wish him the best of luck in December's awards ceremony. You can see more of the nominees here. You can also watch the 10-minute short film on YouTube and below.
Congratulations to the Syracuse University Singers on an exceptional concert featuring my setting Amy Lowell's "To A Friend," alongside works by composers Patrick Vu, Megan DiGeorgio, Carrie Magin, Anuj Bhutani, and Nilo Alcala. Conductor John Warren has developed a wonderful chorus at Syracuse, who first performed my music ten year ago. I look forward to more collaborations with these fine musicians.
In non-composition news, I had the great fortune to perform (and solo) on the stage of the Berlin Philharmonie along with Anthony Blake Clarke and the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, performing Handel's As Pants the Heart, and Bernstein's Chichester Psalms. This was one of those bucket-list type concerts, having the opportunity to solo at the Berlin Phil. The tour continued with concerts in Prague and Vienna.
Petrichor Records has released my 6:46 on the latest volume of their New Music by Living Composers series. "Volume 6: Electronic Works" includes works by Luis Fernando Amaya, Daniel Blinkhorn, Mei-Fang Lin, Ryne Siesky, and Dativo Tobarra Ruiz along with my 6:46.
6:46 makes specific reference to John Cage's 4:33. Cage's work invites the audience to experience all the various sounds present around the listener's environment during moments of silence. This altered experience of silence brought Cage to redefine silence (at least for Cage's own philosophy) as the "absence of intended sounds, or the turning off of our awareness." For many performers, composers and audience members, these non-intended environmental sounds can be unwanted noise, negatively influencing one's experience of intended, or crafted sound. The goal of 6:46 is to organize and manipulate these environmental sounds through computer processing, turning them from unwanted noise into intended, organized sound. The material used to create 6:46 is taken from recordings of my own music. These recordings are filled with clicks, bangs, crowd noise and a variety of unwanted, distracting sounds. It is not my intent to exploit these sounds but to transform them into something greater than their initial existence. Included among these unintentional sounds are excerpts from the recorded works.
New Music By Living Composers: Series 1, Volume 6: Electronic Works is available everywhere digital music is sold or streamed.
We have officially launched our new Go Compose North America website! Check out all of the new programs and workshops that we are offering this year! Don't let the name fool you, we are EVERYWHERE. Over the past 18 months we've welcomed students not only from North America, but from South America, Europe, and Africa. In our newly launched Go Compose North America Academy, four amazing young composers are learning new instruments, new repertoire, new composing techniques, meeting new musicians, and building a close-knit community of fellow composers. Our inaugural Academy class includes composers in New Jersey, Montreal, Northern Ireland, and Manchester UK. In addition to our regular workshops, we're running programs in school classrooms, and professional development workshops for educators. It's an exciting time for Go Compose North America and we're thrilled to be reaching more and more young musicians and teachers everyday! Check us out at www.gocomposenorthamerica.com. If you have any questions about the programs we offer, then please feel free to reach out to me here, or email email@example.com. We'd love to have you join us for a workshop!
The Wake Forest Orchestra, conducted by David Hagy, recently presented my Elegy: Music for String Orchestra in a recorded concert broadcasted in late April and early May. Also included on the program were works by Handel, Ives, Finzi, and Walton.
I’ve had an absolute blast working this past year with Go Compose North America. Founded and organized by Sonya Knussen, Go Compose offers free online composition workshops and further musical development opportunities to participants of all abilities, aged 11-18. The mission is to make music creation accessible to anyone. Since May 2020, Go Compose North America has organized 7 workshops for young composers from around the world including The Bahamas, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Mexico, Namibia, Spain, the UK, and the US. In these 2-day online workshops students attend a group composition class, receive individual instruction from a mentor composer and instrumentalist, compose an original work, rehearse, and have their compositions performed live. I’m looking forward to the Go Compose North America extended summer workshop in August. You can find out more at gocomposenorthamerica.com.
Congratulations to bass-baritone Christopher Besch who recently completed his Doctorate of Musical Arts degree at Rice University. Dr. Besch successfully presented his final lecture-recital on “War in Modern Art Song”, exploring my Battle Songs alongside Kurt Erickson’s Here, Bullet.
During the 2020-2021 school year, over 27,000 children in the Chicago Public Schools were introduced to the poetry of George Moses Horton through my setting of Horton's On the Poetic Muse. On the Poetic Music, for SATB chorus and piano was commissioned by The Frederick Chorale and premiered in 2019.
George Moses Horton was born a slave on a North Carolina tobacco plantation. During his teenage years, he taught himself to read and began creating poetry. Unable to write, he spoke his poetry to crowds at the weekly Chapel Hill farmers market. Popular with University of North Carolina students (who would often pay Horton for his poems and lend him books), he caught the attention of Caroline Lee Whiting Hentz (author and wife of a UNC professor). With her help, Horton’s collection of poetry, The Hope of Liberty, was published in 1829. With its publishing, Horton became the first black author to publish a book in the South. With his earnings, Horton hoped to buy his freedom, but his attempts were repeatedly denied despite public support. Following the Civil War, after almost 70 years a slave, Horton settled in Philadelphia for at least 17 years of freedom before his death in the early 1880s.
On May 23, 2020 my Battle Songs were broadcast once again alongside Ned Rorem's War Scenes. Hawaii Public Radio's "Singing and Other Sins" presented Rorem's War Scenes in the classic 1969 and modern recordings surrounding my Battle Songs.
I am sad to say that two world premieres scheduled for April 2020 have been postponed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Pianst Jerome Reed was scheduled to premiere my "It is finished." at the Steinway Piano Gallery in Nashville on Saturday, April 10. As of now, that performance has not been rescheduled. My setting of Wendy Mitman Clarke's Gravity, for SATB chorus, piano, and tuned water glasses, was scheduled to be premiered on Saturday, April 25 by The Chester River Chorale. The priemere was to take place as part of the Kent County Poetry Festival on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The permiere is tentatively rescheuled for mid-October.
"It is finished." was commissioned by Lipscomb University for pianist Jerome Reed. At the heart of the work is the "Popule Meus" chant, prescribed for the traditional Reproaches on Good Friday for the Christian Holy Triduum. "It is finished." therefore functions as a fantasia on this centuries-old tune, realized through the processes of deconstruction, reorganization, expansion, and allusion.
Gravity, comissioned by The Chester River Chorale with generous support from the Artistic Insights Fund of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, sets the poety of Maryland poet Wendy Mitman Clarke. Gravity is dedicated to Sandy and Woody Boyd, in memory of their son Marc Boyd. Read Gravity.
"It is finished."
On February 21 and 22 the Choral Society of Durham, conducted by Rodney Wynkoop, will give the North Carolina premiere of my On the Poetic Muse in a concert with the North Carolina Central University choir, conducted by Roberta Laws. On the Poetic Muse is a setting of a poem by George Moses Horton. Horton was a slave in North Carolina. After teaching himself to read, he began creating poetry that became quite popular with Chapel Hill students. With their help and the help of a professor's wife, Horton became the first black author to publish a book in the South. The two concert dates and locations are listed below. The concerts are free.
Friday, February 21
First Presbyterian Church, Durham
305 E Main St. Durham, NC 27701
Saturday, February 22
University United Methodist Church, Chapel Hill
150 E Franklin St. Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Choral Society of Durham website: https://choral-society.org/chamber-choir-concert-2-21-20/
The Frederick Chorale reprised its Mystic Fire program on September 30. The program included my setting of George Moses Horton's On the Poetic Muse. The program, a benefit for Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (COIPP), was presented at Frederick, MD's Church of the Transfiguration. For more information about COIPP, please visit www.coipp.org.
On Sunday, September 22, baritone Ross Tamaccio and pianist Aaron Thacker presented a wonderful performance of my Battle Songs alongside works by Laura Kaminsky, Marc Blitzstein, and Gabriel Kahane. A huge thank you to Paul Cassedy for his hospitality and organizing this great house recital!
On Saturday, October 26, soprano Joann Martinson Davis, and pianist Keilor Kastella will give the southern premiere of my Time and Memory: suite for voice and piano on poems of William S. Trout. The recital will take place at 4 PM in Howard Auditorium on the Louisiana Tech University campus in Ruston, LA. www.joannmartinson.com
I'm honored to have finished third in The American Prize for Choral Music Composition competition. Congratulations to the first prize winner Kyle Pederson, second place finisher Paul David Thomas, fellow third place finisher Daniel Elder (there was a tie), and Michael Bussewitz-Quarm who received honorable mention. You can read about each of these wonderful composers on The American Prize blog page. You can also check out all the winners in each composition category here.
Sunday, May 19 at 4:30 p.m., St. David's Episcopal Church in Baltimore will present its final evensong of the year featuring past composers in residence. I was privileged to serve as St. David's Composer-In-Residence for the 2016-2017 season. This final evensong will include my new Psalm setting along with music by Faye Chiao, Joshua Bornfield, and Tariq Al-Sabir.
On Sunday, May 5 and Monday, May 6, The Frederick Chorale premiered my setting of George Moses Horton's On the Poetic Muse in a concert celebrating American poetry and music. Horton's text (below) was preceded by a reading of Maya Angelou's "Caged Bird", a fitting prelude to Horton's words. The program including music by Randall Thompson, Morten Lauridsen, David C. Dickau, Ricky Ian Gordan, Timothy C. Takach, Daniel Elder and others, and included readings of works by Walt Whitman, Carl Sandburg, Emily Dickenson, Sara Teasdale, and others.
Far, far above this world I soar,
And almost nature lose,
Aerial regions to explore,
With this ambitious Muse.
My towering thoughts with pinions rise,
Upon the gales of song,
Which waft me through the mental skies,
With music on my tongue.
My Muse is all on mystic fire,
Which kindles in my breast;
To scenes remote she doth aspire,
As never yet exprest.
Wrapt in the dust she scorns to lie,
Call'd by new charms away;
Nor will she e'er refuse to try
Such wonders to survey.
Such is the quiet bliss of soul,
When in some calm retreat,
Where pensive thoughts like streamlets roll,
And render silence sweet;
And when the vain tumultuous crowd
Shakes comfort from my mind,
My muse ascends above the cloud
And leaves the noise behind
With vivid flight she mounts on high
Above the dusky maze,
And with a perspicacious eye
Doth far 'bove nature gaze.
GEORGE MOSES HORTON (1798?-1880)
On Sunday, April 7, the Baltimore Choral Arts Society premiered two new works at the beautiful Our Lady of the Angels chapel in Catonsville, MD. The first piece, To A Friend for a cappella chorus, is a setting of a text by 1926 Pulitzer Prize winning poet Amy Lowell. The second piece, Fare Thee Well for chorus and piano, is a setting of "Farewell to Frances" by George Moses Horton, whose poems were first published while he was still a slave in North Carolina. Also on the program were works by Purcell, Brahms, and selections from Mendelssohn's rarely heard Die erste Walpurgisnacht.
Baritone Ross Tamaccio, together with pianist Chelsea de Souza presented a wonderful recital on Saturday, March 9 at the Unitarian Universalist Congragation of Columbia Owen Brown Interfaith Center. Included on the program were my Battle Songs along with works by Laura Kaminsky, Ned Rorem, Paul Bowles, Marc Blitzstein, and Gabriel Kahane. Ross is a native of Herndon, Virginia. During his graduate studies at Peabody with Dr. Stanley Cornett, he performed Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Papageno in the outreach program of The Magic Flute, and most recently Manfred in the east coast premiere of Jake Heggie’s Out of Darkness: Two Remain. As an oratorio soloist, he has been featured in Handel’s Messiah with the Frederick Chorale, and Brahms’s Requiem with Maryland Choral Society. Additionally Ross has performed in Bach’s B Minor Mass and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. As a highly sought-after professional chorister, Ross has also sung with the Basilica of the National Shrine Choir in Washington, the Washington National Cathedral, the National Symphony, and The Thirteen Choir.
This past Veteran's Day (Nov. 11), baritone Matt Sullivan and pianist Hsiao-Ying Lin presented a special recital of my music honoring Veterans Day and the 100 year anniversary of the 1918 Armistice. The program included my Battle Songs featuring John McCraes "In Flanders Fields", written during WWI (listen here). The recital also included the premiere of my I am sorry that it has come to this, a work for electronics, piano, and voice. Considering the issue of veterans' health care, the piece features 22 different voices reading excerpts from a veteran's suicide note documenting crippling mental and physical illnesses. Following the recital was a service of evensong that included my settings of the traditional preces and responses. You can view the premiere of my I am sorry that it has come to this here and below.
Time and Memory is reaching listeners through radio broadast from Honollulu to Philadelphia. Jonathan Woolf has also reviewed the recording for MusicWeb International, describing the vocal lines as "extremely attractive and thoughtfully shaped". You can read the entire review on the MusicWeb International website.
I recently spoke with Douglas Buchanan about the premiere of my new work I am sorry that it has come to this, for electronics, piano, and voice.
I am excited to announce that my Time and Memory recording has been released by Albany Records! Time and Memory is a new recording of my music for solo voice and piano. The pieces in this recording celebrate the works of five American poets, including California Poet Laureate and former NEA chairman Dana Gioia, Pennsylvania native William S. Trout, and 19th-century masters Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville and Theodore O'Hara. Battle Songs, a set of war poems includes the popular In Flanders Fields by Canadian poet John McCrae.
Assembled for this project are five extraordinary musicians who dedicate so much of their work to the performance of new music. Recording sessions took place in the Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall of The Peabody Institute in Baltimore, MD, and I am very excited to have had Ed Tetreault on board as the audio engineer for this project.
I hope you'll consider adding this CD to your library. The recording is available on the Albany website, Amazon, iTunes, and other outlets. In the days leading up to the release, I posted a series of "Artist Profiles" on Facebook, highlighting each individual artist on the recording. You can read those here. For more information about this recording, please click below.