In 2008 I was the guest conductor for the District One Pennsylvania High School Honors Choir. This is basically the top "area" of Pennsylvania as it encompasses the high-achieving schools of suburban Pittsburgh.
When you appear as a guest conductor/composer people want you to conduct some of your own music. The piece I chose of my own was my arrangement of the Armenian folk song Loosin Yelav, published by Santa Barbara, which was originally commissioned as an SA/piano piece by Mary Alice Stollak for the Michigan State University Children's Choir. In Pittsburgh we did the SATB version, which also includes a solo violin part, which was played by a high school student.
The rehearsals and the concert were a blast. The kids were really great and were very dedicated to the work, and the organizers provided us with an amazing pianist named James Burns. I was also blessed with a lot of support from host director Lorraine Milovac, who teaches at Upper St. Clair High School and also the University of Pittsburgh. FYI, the piece we had the most fun with was Rene Clausen's Jabberwocky, which to me is a perfect HS honors choir piece. It is so full of imagination AND has so many challenges for an aspiring high school choir- challenges in regard to tone color, storytelling & expression, tuning, rhythm, placement of consonants, you name it, the piece has so many avenues for artistically based teaching moments.
The dads of one of the singers has created two videos to accompany the recording the organizers made. One of them is Jabberwocky (which I might post later- you can find it on Youtube) and Loosin Yelav.
Loosin Yelav (The Moon ha Risen...) is a folk song praising the rising rosy moon. It moves back and forth from a contemplative tone to more dance like moods. It was set famously by Luciano Berio back in the 1960's for soprano solo and it was that Berio setting that Mary Alice Stollak used to sing as a concert soloist. After many years, she thought I might be the composer best suited to setting this for choir. In retrospect I am glad she asked for this piece- I would never have thought of setting an Armenian folk song!
Anyway, here is the video created by "BWCDAD".
I'm not sure the translation on the screen is the greatest (I think we did a very nice job on that for the Santa Barbara publication of the piece), but I do believe that the images of Armenia are fantastic- what amazingly unique images of a people and a country!
So thanks "BWCDAD" for creating this video!
Btw, I just discovered a youtube performance of the SA/piano version by the Indianapolis Children
s Choir- veyr nice singing and interpretation!
To the readers
6 years ago