Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Super Fun and Rewarding Trip to South Korea for the premiere by
the Incheon City Chorale of Missa Brevis Incheon

Part 1- The Background

If you have been following me on this blog, FaceBook, Twitter, my webpage, etc. you definitely know that I was commissioned by the Incheon City Chorale of South Korea to write a concert mass for them to premiere in October 2009. The commission came soon on the heels of my meeting the Chorale and their director Dr. Hak-Won Yoon in Oklahoma City during the ACDA 50th anniversary convention, where they wowed the audience of professional musicians to the max.

Dr. Yoon asked me to write a 15-18 minute piece (essentially a four movement “Missa Brevis”) which had to be written in about sixty days, which also happened to coincide with my challenging new summer job teaching at the amazing North Carolina Governor’s School for all of June and July. It wasn’t easy to make the time to sketch and write the piece while working such a challenging new job in North Carolina, but I knew it was important to make the time to write creative and challenging music for this amazing choir. I was able to complete the Kyrie while in North Carolina, write most of the Gloria, and have ideas and sketches for the Sanctus and Agnus Dei. Perhaps the most exciting thing was that a certain idea (quickly racing through tessituras) I had for the opening of the Gloria would perhaps be very hard to sing, and I was constantly curious whether it was really singable. But I knew this choir of virtuosi just might be able to handle it. And I was also fortunate that I could still hear the sound of the choir in my head as I wrote.

So the piece was finished after I got back home in early August and sent off via pdf file to Dr. Yoon. After awhile I heard back, Dr. Yoon and the singers liked the piece a lot and the singers especially loved the fast and forte Gloria and Sanctus. They loved the fact that I was allowing their abilities to shine and to challenge them to some degree. One interesting side note-- some pentatonic elements started writing themselves into the score while in North Carolina. I didn’t set out purposely to bring pentatonic, seemingly Eastern elements into the piece, they just kind of happened (I am one of those composers who often feels that a piece in progress takes over at some point in the creative process and seems to start writing itself). Actually a number of my pieces lately have had pentatonic elements to them- this just happened to have some of that as well (thought really only quite noticeable in parts of the Gloria).

Just about two weeks before the Seoul premiere of October 20th, Dr. Yoon informed me that a way had been found to sponsor a trip for me to Korea for the premiere. This was pretty exciting- I wasn’t expecting this to happen. Travel arrangements were made, and off I flew to Seoul on Sunday, October 18th, leaving O’Hare in Chicago about noon on Korean Air. The only other thing I had to do was make sure that Aidan, our six year old little guy, would know that Daddy would be back in five days- and not be gone the seven long weeks the poor little guy endured while I was in Raleigh, NC for most of the summer.

Next Post: Day One in South Korea

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