Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer 2013 Composer Newsletter: New pieces available


I hope you all had a great 2012-13 school year and concert season. Many thanks to those of you who performed works by me- it is truly gratifying to know that there are so many directors and choirs out there who want to perform music by living composers. This was also a season during which I Skyped with many choirs around the country- always great fun and such a great opportunity to work together through the magic of the internet.

I have a number of pieces that were commissioned and successfully premiered this past season. These pieces are now available to all choirs through me directly (I am not actively working with any traditional print publishers at this time). These pieces are:

"...to balance myself upon a broken world" (SATB, piano), commissioned by the Ithaca College Choral Music Festival, premiered last November with Larry Doebler conducting. The process of composing this piece was discussed in an earlier blog which you can see here. The singers and audience loved this anti-war text by Amy Lowell. I attended the concert festival and loved everything about Ithaca College- Larry Doebler, Janet Galvan, their fine students (winners of the ACDA student chapter award), the town- it was great!

"At the Round Earth's Imagined Corners" (SATB/piano), commissioned by Lexington Catholic HS in Lexington, KY, premiered this spring with Adam Beeken conducting. This is actually a three section piece with the final section using the John Donne-titled text. While I like the Williametta Spencer setting, I chose to take more time in telling Donne's story. I also blogged about the process of writing this piece, which you can see here.

"In the Moonlit Garden" (SATB/cello/piano), commissioned by Elysian Voices and premiered this spring with Paul Laprade directing. This is a very evocative Chinese love poem (set in English). The piece is very lyrical and wistful- there might be a bit of Madame Butterfly in there!

For treble choirs: two "peace pieces" commissioned by the group Spirito under the inspiring direction of Molly Lindberg: "Peace" (easy SA/piano) and "Dona Nobis Pacem" (more challenging SSA and at times SSAA/vibes/orch bells/cymbal). These were premiered to a gigantic soldout house in May.

Some other pieces (generally recent) that have been getting great performances and excellent feedback from singers and audiences:

"Dirge for Love" (SSAATTBB a.c.) premiered by Paul Crabbe's Prometheus (they will sing it at Iowa ACDA in July) and also performed by Kathy Fitzgibbon's fine choir at Lewis and Clark College in Portland (and also including on their recent tour to Egypt-I think that's the first time my music has been sung there!). This is a fun, quasi-madrigal battle of the sexes text by Philip Sydney.

My sometimes gorgeous, sometimes gnarly double choir re-imagining of William Billings round “When Jesus Wept” received two more performances. This is a piece no publisher will touch- they don't want double choir, counterpoint, or anything really creative- so it will remain self-published. The performance led by Patrick Dill (recent DMA student of Richard Sparks) at University of North Texas was excellent. You can hear a recording here:


"Fishing in the Keep of Silence" (truly great text by Linda Gregg) was performed by the Xavier University Choir directed by Micah Pfundstein (student of Tom Merrill) as well as by Brad Logan at Bemidji State.

I was also pleased that two more choirs performed my setting of gorgeous Antonio Machado texts in the multi-movement piece "El Limonar Florido". Diana Saez' Washington DC group Cantigas did the piece this spring and John Jost's wonderful choir at Bradley University also sang the piece this spring and took it on tour of Spain. I actually went with the choir to Spain and it was truly memorable in so many ways. John's students are great people and great singers, and it was fun to watch the Spanish audiences perk up when all of a sudden the choir was singing to them in Spanish! El Limonar is a piece I am truly proud of- I hope some of you will consider programming it. The texts are quite magical which made my job as the composer fairly easy. You can see more about it and hear sound files from Joel Navarro's Calvin College Kappelle) here.

Ready to talk Christmas/Holiday repertoire (I can hear you groan- haha)? Here are some pieces of mine which might really spice up your December programs. Let me know if you would like any free perusal scores of these pieces. I will just highlight a few- you can view a complete listing with details, score samples, etc. of all of my many Christmas, Hanukkah, and Winter Solstice scores by visiting:

One of my holiday bestsellers is the Hanukkah song "Unending Flame" with a truly nice text (so many Hanukkah texts are awful, I think you will agree). Voicings available are SA or SABar. There is also an orchestration for this piece which really makes it pop.
Another bestselling piece which can be either with piano or orchestra is my very dancey SSA version in mixed meters of I Saw three Ships:
http://paulcarey.net/Music/I_Saw_3_Ships.htm

If you are looking for SATB works, Nancy Menk made a very nice recording of my lyrical “Hush my Dear, Lie Still and Slumber" which you can hear:  
I also have a piece with a similar feel to it- my arrangement of “Gabriel's Message”, available in manuscript.

Finally, some pieces with brass. First up is “Christmas Bells”, which was commissioned by Edie Copley at N. Arizona University. This is big and festive (yet with a very introspective middle section)  for SATB/brass/organ/perc/handbells.  The ending will ensure that your entire audience is awake:
http://paulcarey.net/Music/Christmas%20Bells.htm

The other brass piece is not as festive since the text by the brilliant Thomas Merton is generally more reflective- it's called “The Winter's Night Carol”. I don't have a good recording yet of the piece due to miking issues at performances, but I can certainly e-mail you a score if you like!

So there you have it- all the pieces I am composing while not sleepwalking, crashing stock cars, daring my son to try hot sauces, or lobbying Congress to make the Congo Buffalo our official national pet. And please accept my sincere thank you to those of you who perform my scores. Without YOU they make no sound!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Into this World-Performance news for 2013/14



I've been away from blogging as the last month or so has been very filled with searching for texts for commissions I am writing this summer for performance next season plus a great trip with the Bradley University Choirs to Spain. I will blog about the Spain trip soon. It was magnifico!

Today just a quick entry about news I was glad to hear via a 2013/14 season preview brochure I received from the Festival Singers of Madison, WI where I was composer-in-residence a few years ago. To commemorate their 40th anniversary this coming season this excellent group, under the excellent direction of Bryson Mortensen, is repeating pieces they have commissioned over the years for a concert on March 1, 2014. The composers on the program will be Stephen Paulus, Elizabeth Alexander, Dwight Bigler, Jean Belmont, and myself. The two years I was the composer in residence for the group were awesome- the folks in this choir and the people in leadership roles are all wonderful.


s
Bryson Mortensen


I am especially happy that they will again perform my four movement piece "Into this World: Four Choral Seasons". In composing this piece I took four poems which suggest a season, and travel from spring through summer, fall, and finish in winter- in order to also suggest the seasons of human life: birth through release (death). The poems I used, in my opinion, are brilliant, artistic, and of great substance. The fall movement, a short text by Rilke, can also be viewed as a reference to the victims of 9/11, although I don't broadcast that openly. The piece is for SATB/piano and is of medium difficulty.

Here's how I describe the piece on my website and the texts are below as well. Many thanks to Bryson for choosing to perform this pieces next year- I hope to be there. It is very rewarding to have longer pieces sung more than once at their premiere- so far, the only performances of this piece were the premiere and a performance by David Howard's fine college choir in Texas. If anyone reading this blog would like to see the score and perhaps consider the piece for performance I would be happy to send you a pdf file of the piece. The "Tropic Rain" movement is the longest and could easily stand alone, btw.


This four movement piece (completed October 2008) was premiered February 28, 2009 by the Festival Choir conducted by the composer. The texts are about the seasons of our lives and are by Elinor Wylie, Robert Louis Stevenson, an adaptation of a Rilke text, and Natalie Goldberg.

Four different seasons, four different poets—yet a collective wisdom about what each season mean to us as human beings, all of the seasons’ very obvious signs but also all those hidden beneath the surface as well. This is the goldmine of texts I was able to assemble for this piece premiered tonight.  

Fair Annett’s Song, by American poet Elinor Wylie, speaks of Spring’s joys but also hints just a bit at what lies beyond in almost an English madrigal way. In fact, the decidedly quaint and quirky collection this tiny poem comes from is all about fairies, goblins and other such oddities. I have reflected that fairytale feel in the music to allow this poem to act as a simple introduction to the whole four movement piece. 

Tropic Rain at first appears to be nothing more than a poem about a wild rainstorm, yet by the time Stevenson has concluded, he has delved into the depths of our questions about light and dark, good and evil, conflict and peace. 

The Leaves are Falling, by Rilke, may seem to be the darkest poem of the four and is certainly set in a somber way. Yet, while it seems resigned to us “falling” it also implores us to believe that someone or something is also breaking that fall and holding us, supporting our lives and psyches. 

Finally, Natalie Goldberg’s winter poem Into this World is about resignation and the wisdom of simply letting go—not at all surprising since it is written by a woman who teaches creative writing, journaling, and who also practices Zen meditation.

There are musical devices connecting each movement to each other- key relationships, motivic devices, etc, but these technical concerns are not that important. My ultimate goal was to write a lyrical piece which would communicate to all in the audience about the seasons of our lives through the communal power of these poems




TEXT
Spring (Introduction)

Fair Annet’s Song (Elinor Wylie)

One thing comes and another thing goes:
Frosts in November drive away the rose;
Like a blowing ember the wind-flower blows
And drives away the snows.
It is sad to remember and sorrowful to pray:
Let us laugh and be merry,
Who have seen today the last of the cherry
And the first of the May;
And neither one will stay.
One thing comes and another thing goes:
Frosts in November drive away the rose;
Like a blowing ember the wind-flower blows
And drives away the snows.


Summer

Tropic Rain (R.L. Stevenson)

As the single pang of the blow, when the metal is mingled well,
Rings and lives and resounds in all the bounds of the bell,
So the thunder above spoke with a single tongue,
So in the heart of the mountain the sound of it rumbled and clung.

Sudden the thunder was drowned -- quenched was the levin light --
And the angel-spirit of rain laughed out loud in the night.
Loud as the maddened river raves in the cloven glen,
Angel of rain! you laughed and leaped on the roofs of men;

And the sleepers sprang in their beds, and joyed and feared as you fell.
You struck, and my cabin quailed; the roof of it roared like a bell.
You spoke, and at once the mountain shouted and shook with brooks.
You ceased, and the day returned, rosy, with virgin looks.

And I thought that beauty and terror are only one, not two;
And the world has room for love, and death, and thunder, and dew;
And the face of God is a rock, but the face of the rock is fair.
Beneficent streams of tears flow at the finger of pain;
And out of the cloud  that smites, beneficent rivers of rain.


 

Fall

The Leaves are Falling
(adaptation of Herbst, by Rilke)


The leaves are falling, falling as if from afar;
Wither'd they fall from distant gardens of the sky.
And through this deep night,
The earth falls away from the stars into solitude.
Yet the leaves, the earth, our souls, are gather'd, gather'd gently.


Winter

Into this World
(Natalie Goldberg)

Let us die gracefully into this world
like a leaf pressed in stone
let us go quietly breathing our last breath
let the sun continue to revolve in its great golden dance
let us leave it be as it is
and not hold on
not even to the moon
tipped as it will be tonight
and beckoning wildly in the sea

Monday, April 22, 2013

BBC Music Magazine keeps getting dumb and dumber

A short while ago I came across the blog "Slipped Disc" by longtime music commenter Norman Lebrecht. In a recent short blog he examines (while certainly also dismissing as ridiculous) BBC Music Magazine's breathless announcement of the "50 people who changed classical music...forever" (wow, the dot-dot-dot, is that supposed to make it more amazingly important- a "wait for it" moment for the classical crowd?). As Lebrecht states, this is more about selling magazines than anything- but it really is such insulting, silly drivel. And why isn't Justin Bieber there somewhere? After all, you know this sequence will play out in history:

Step #1: Bieber, for God only knows what reason, visits the Anne Frank House. Apparently overcome with emotion, he experiences  a moment of spiritual clarity wherein he divines that "Anne was a great girl" and that she would have been a "belieber" if she were alive today.

 

 

Step #2: A young person, inspired by Bieber, decides to research music of Anne Frank's day- wholeheartedly searching for someone to "beliebe" in from back in those charmingly gritty retro black-and-white days. At first totally ignorant of musical history before the year 2010, he/she eventually discovers Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time (composed and first performed in the Gorlitz prisoner camp)  and becomes inspired to pursue a career as a great composer- hopeful of uniting Messiaen's palindrome and additive rhythms, chromatic durations, bird-calls, etc with Jehovah-inspired auto-tuning and the brilliant rhyme schemes of Bieber and Busta Rhymes in seminal works such as Little Drummer Boy (see way down below for full lyrics and try not to get too dizzy from the white-hot brilliance). Did you know these "rhymes" were possible? Well maybe not for simple folks such as you and I, but in the world of beliebers they are:

Playing for the king, playing for the title
I'm surprised you didn't hear this in the bible
I'm so tight I might go psycho, Christmas time so here's a recital
I'm so bad like Michael, I know i'm still young but I go, I go
Stupid, stupid, love like Cupid, I'm the drummer boy so go (go)

And later: 

Now lemme get straight to it, yo.
At the table with the family, havin dinner,
Blackberry on our hip and then it gave a little flicker.
Then I took a look to see before it activates the ringer
came to realize my homie Bieber hit me on the Twitter
Then I hit him back despite I had some food up on my finger,
sippin' eggnog with a little sprinkle of vanilla,
even though it's kinda cold, pullin out a chinchilla,
Bieber hit me back and said, "Let's make it hot up in the winter."
I said "Cool." Ya know Imma deliver

Step #3: After a number of years of epic struggles with the forms and models, the young composer succeeds in creating the greatest new musical form of all-time, thus creating a new Bieber musical world order. 

Anyhoo, here is Lebrech'ts take on the BBC matter- and maybe you can peek here and there and try to figure out who all these folks are in the illustration- and yeah also, where is Arthur Fiedler or Leroy Anderson, dammit?!

Jesus Christ and Charlotte Church: the ‘saviours’ of classical music

Among the silly lists that music magazines publish in a desperate bid to claim readers’ attention and raise their blood-pressure, none in recent memory has been sillier than ’50 people who changed classical music… forever’ in the February issue of BBC Music magazine.
bbc music
About 45 [personally I don't think it's even close to 45- PC] of the changers and saviours are obvious names. The rest are provocations, Jesus gets included with the rather tame excuse of ‘imagine life without Handel’s Messiah’. And Charlotte Church is there because she inspired ‘the mother-and-father of all bickering over what constitutes ‘classical’ music.’
Charlotte_Church_-_Voice_of_an_Angel
Oh, really? Much of Handel’s Messiah uses Old Testament texts, not much Jesus there. And few remember or care what Charlotte, the Jackie Evancho of her day, got up to when she was 12. No one, surely, takes these lists seriously.
The more so when BBC Music has omitted from its transformational 50 the two opera singers who invented the cult of celebrity, Maria Malibran and Jenny Lind. Not to mention the founders of the conducting profession, Hans von Bülow and Artur Nikisch. Or Gustav Mahler, who introduced irony and spatial awareness to the symphony. Or Charles Ives who proposed polystilism. Or George Gershwin, the first crossover composer.
It does, however, include Donald Grout.
How silly is that?
PC here again, and here you are, friends, the entire lyrics to the Bieber/Rhymes Little Drummer Boy- sure to put you in the Holiday spirit once the season rolls around.

Come they told me, pa rapa pum pum
A new born king to see, pa rapa pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rapa pum pum
To lay before the king, pa rapa pum pum
rapa pum pum
rapa pum pum

Rum pa pa pum rapa pum pum pum
Yeah I'm on the drum, yeah i'm on the stand drum
Yeah i'm on the beat, coz' the beat goes dumb
and I only spit heat coz' i'm playing for the son
Playing for the king, playing for the title
I'm surprised you didn't hear this in the bible
I'm so tight I might go psycho, Christmas time so here's a recital
I'm so bad like Michael, I know i'm still young but I go, I go
Stupid, stupid, love like Cupid, I'm the drummer boy so go (go)

Little baby, pa rapa pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rapa pum pum
(gather round the mistletoe real quick)
I have no gifts to bring, pa rapa pum pum
(matter of face, lets gather round the fire place
its 'bout to get hot in here!)
Thats fit to give our king, pa rapa pum pum
(people what up? Yeah, yeah, yeah)
rapa pum pum
rapa pum pum

Busta Rhymes:
Now lemme get straight to it, yo.
At the table with the family, havin dinner,
Blackberry on our hip and then it gave a little flicker.
Then I took a look to see before it activates the ringer
came to realize my homie Bieber hit me on the Twitter
Then I hit him back despite I had some food up on my finger,
sippin' eggnog with a little sprinkle of vanilla,
even though it's kinda cold, pullin out a chinchilla,
Bieber hit me back and said, "Let's make it hot up in the winter."
I said "Cool." Ya know Imma deliver
let's collaborate and make the holiday a little bigger
Before we work I gotta get this off,
see the other family members and drop gifts off.
Then I'm headed to the studio cause ain't nothing stopping how
you know we bout to turn it up and really get it poppin now
People everywhere and all our Twitter followers,
"Merry Christmas, Kwanza, happy Hanukkah!"

Mary nodded, pa rapa pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rapa pum pum
I played my drum for him, pa rapa pum pum
I played my best for him, pa rapa pum pum
rapa pum pum
rapa pum pum

If you wanna give, it's the time of year
JB on the beat, yeah yeah, I'm on the snare
It's crazy how some people say, say they don't care
when there's people on the street with no food, it's not fair
It's about time for you to act merrily
it's about time for you to give to charity
Rarely do people even wanna help at all
'cause they warm by the fire, getting toys and their dolls
Not thinking there's a family out hungry and cold
wishin' wishin' that they had somebody they could hold.
So I think some of you need to act bold
give a can to a drive, let's change the globe.

I'm the drummer boy so go (repeat 5x)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A wonderful documentary on the life of Mstislav Rostropovich

The cello is my favorite instrument due to its amazing expressive qualities, its ability to imitate both the male AND female human voice due to its extended range, its gorgeous vibrato, plus effects such as pizzicato which give it even more variety of sound. I ask you, is there anything more profound than the Bach Cello Suites or more gorgeous than the Heitor Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras for soprano and cello ensemble? Here are two takes- the first is one of my favorite singers, Victoria de los Angeles, on the solo, and the second one is by newcomer Elina Garanca:












Beginning with Pablo Casals, we have been blessed over the last 75 years or so with an enormous number of great cellists- and certainly Yo-Yo Ma is virtually a household name in America. And while I like Ma, my all-time favorite has easily always been Mstislav Rostropovich whose playing is generally far more virile and gutsy than Ma's. In surfing the intertubes I came across a powerful 30 minute documentary honoring Rostropovich's life, including some fascinating footage discussing the difficulties of his life under Soviet rule including his harboring of Solzhenitsyn.

I hope you will watch this film and learn more about a truly great musician and man. I especially love to watch  him throw his whole body and soul into the music- there is no hesitation in his seizing of the day! Young musicians could certainly benefit by observing this man sing passionately through his instrument.





By the way, Rostropovich and his wife the soprano Galina Vishnevskaya (who passed away recently) formed the Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation, a non-political, non-partisan organization whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of children in need through selected, sustainable, and transformational public health programs (the program continues under the leadership of their daughter and others.

These programs are nationwide in scope and focus on the following areas:
• Modernizing the routine vaccination of children by introducing vaccines recommended by the  World Health Organization (WHO)
• Accelerating the elimination of vaccine-preventable diseases through large-scale vaccination initiatives targeting children, youth, women of child-bearing age, and at-risk health care workers.
• Screening and treating pregnant women to prevent perinatally transmitted diseases such as hepatitis B and HIV.
•  Screening and treating children to  eliminate intestinal parasites.


Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya

The strategy underlying Foundation programs is to create mechanisms of sustainability by strengthening the existing health care infrastructure and avoiding the establishment of parallel structures. The Foundation staff works with local health authorities to plan every aspect of the programs. Regular training and educational seminars for health care workers ensure that each program meets international standards. All programs are implemented by local health professionals. Foundation representatives monitor and assess progress and work with health authorities to solve problems as they arise.  Each program is designed to be self-sustaining within 3 to 5 years from inception.

Visit this wonderful foundation's website here

Monday, April 15, 2013

Wise words about music and life by a consummate musician, Joel Navarro



 Here's a great address by Joel Navarro to the Philippine choral community. I saw it shared by Mark Anthony Carpio and liked it enough to ask Joel if I could share it here on my blog. Always a great gentleman and consummate musician, Joel agreed to let me post it. Wise words here...

 

"It's never about us."

Picture
Joel Navarro
"Dear Philippine choir conductor friends, students, and former students,

As one of the more senior choral conductors in your midst, allow me these words for you to chew on. I do this because I have invested my life mentoring many of you even as I now live so very far away from you. You are all dear to my heart. I am deeply grateful that many of you have surpassed me. This is the best tribute you can give your professor.

I wish you could all invest and pursue long-term and lifelong learning opportunities to study deeply from other great choirs, conductors, and repertoires of those from the other side of the world, as they, too, must learn from you. It's not enough to win competitions, do adjudications, workshops, choir clinics, and gigs. They all serve a purpose, to be sure. But you need to replenish and refuel yourselves. Do regular and thoughtful score study of music your choir may not even perform. Get away from the hustle and bustle and retreat to your own mountain of solitude. Study with and learn from the masters. Be an apprentice to great conductors. Read books on choral music. Establish a roundtable of conductors that caucuses regularly and exchanges research on choral music. Reserve time to sharpen your saw--retool, re-imagine your life ministry/calling, reflect, re-assess, re-educate and re-dedicate yourselves to your life-callings.

Developing over-competence in one area (e.g. performance, etc.) often results in an under-competence in another area. Doing too much leads to that dreaded burn-out, we so often bring upon ourselves. It also leads to ossification. There is nothing more important than time for your own soul. Your soul needs to breathe. I have learned that doing so many things all the time often leads to accomplishing very little. Is this the example we want to leave behind to those who follow us? If we live often inside our own bubble, we become comfortably ensconced in our world and think the world revolves around us. Never rest on your laurels. This doesn't mean pursuing more laurels. Step back. Go out of your bubble. Take time off. Request, even insist, on a sabbatical every 7th year of your work. Learn. Then, learn some more. There is a big world out there and it keeps renewing every day. Genius grows everywhere all the time. Learn from its fresh and awe-some ideas. When you keep learning, your choir will thank you for it, your audiences will grow with you, and you ensure an enduring legacy of continuous growth and renewal to your successors.

Remember that we're all servants of the music, and the Great Spirit who guides the music of the spheres. It's never about us.

Yours always~

Joel Navarro, DMA
Professor
Calvin College
Grand Rapids, Michigan"


Used with permission from the author.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Final Thoughts on the 2013 ACDA National Conference in Dallas

Lately I have blogged about the ACDA National Conference in Dallas. Here are my final thoughts and some well-deserved kudos:

The weather in Dallas was perfect- warm and sunny every day. Congrats to the Man Up Above for this great bonus.

The venues were all close together in the Dallas Arts District. I absolutely loved what Dallas has created- many performing arts avenues and art museums all close together- brilliant! The two main concert venues had very different reviews from performers and listeners- people loved the Meyerson space and generally did not like the Winspeare space  - apparently many choirs just could not hear and tune in that space. This isn't ACDA's fault- it was just what it was.

The overall quality of singing was very high. I was rarely disappointed by the singing. You can of course read about my favorites in the earlier blog entries. The JFK events were an important element of the conference. Congrats to Karen Fulmer and Tin Sharp for creating these socially important events where choral singing intersected with history and the honoring of a fallen president.

ACDA continued to add new events and new ideas without diluting the overall quality of events. There were so many events available- I actually wished we could have somehow had a extra day or two to try to attend more offerings. One of my favorite new offerings was the series of "Into the Mind" informal sessions with the directors of choirs preforming at the conference. While a few folks presenting these sessions couldn't quite figure out what to present in a half-hour (yet their improv was actually great) I think this is a great idea and hope to see it repeated in 2016 when the conference will be held at Salt Lake City.

Another plus was the young director's reception (hmm, this was an idea I proposed a while back- glad to see it happen) and the generally embracing attitude ACDA has taken to energize the organization and bring in more young people. In general this has been going on since the 2011 conference in Chicago led by Mike Scheibe. I see more and more young faces on the scene- a very good thing.

Speaking of youthfulness- it was great fun to run into the ACDA youth contingent from Ithaca College, where I had just been in November for a commission premiere. Congrats to Ithaca's students on winning the ACDA student chapter reward!

There were plenty of exhibitors- I was glad to see that and they all seemed very positive and happy to be there. It looked like a lot of sales were happening. And it's great to see these people weathering the recession we have just emerged from.

Reading and interest sessions were abundant and on a high quality level. We have all been to lame reading sessions in the past- that wasn't a problem this time- great repertoire AND people could actually sighting through the offerings!

The headliner groups and the Britten War Requiem were great- wow!

All in all, you can see I am pretty effusive about the success of this conference. On a scale of 1-10 I would say it truly deserves a 10!And now I would like to give some folks just a fraction of the recognition they deserve by listing them here (those of us on the outside looking in can have no true idea of how much constant work goes into something like this). This list was prepared with the help of incoming ACDA president Karen Fulmer, who did a spectacular job in creating the conference. Major congrats to Karen and of course ACDA executive director Tim Sharp.


Karen Fulmer


Here is the list of awesome people and my apologies if I have left out some folks who should be mentoned here (I am sure there are dozens more who could be named):

Steering Committee:
Brian Galante
Stan McGill
Deanna Joseph
Tom Merrill
Amy Blosser
Terre Johnson

 Also:
Twyla Brunson
Hilary Apfelstadt
Craig Jessop
Joshua Habermann
Steve Hodson
Kirk Marcy
Wendy McKee
Jo Ann Miller
Amanda Quist
Joey Martin
Mara Force
Robyn Lana
Julian Ackerley
Gretchen Harrison
Dan Bishop
Iris Levine
Ron Sayer
Sharon Gratto
Ethan Sperry
Robert Lawrence
Dianna Campbell
Patrice Madura Ward-Steinman
Ryan Holder
Alec Harris
John Rutter


ACDA Staff:
Katie Lewis
Ron Granger
Craig Gregory
Tim Sharp
Jose Tellez

COMING UP: Some other bloggers' views; mostly positive impressions of the conference


Monday, April 1, 2013

CENTER FOR CHORAL DISEASE CONTROL: SPECIAL ALERTS

ALL POINTS BULLETIN: SPECIAL MULTIPLE ALERTS

LOCATION OF OUTBREAKS: DALLAS, TX

The American Association for Polyphony Elimination (AAPE) has ordered an international arrest warrant for MICHAEL WALDENBY, a Swedish composer whose work "Homini dies" is cited for breaking into an illegal musical form called a "fugue" during the ACDA 2013 National Conference in Dallas (accessory to this crime of polyphony is the University of Louisville Cardinal Singers directed by Kent Hatteberg). Waldenby has a long history of polyphonic contamination due to his studies as an organist in Sweden. He currently also leads the Stockholm domkyrkokor. Approach with caution: suspect should be considered L'Homme Armed and dangerous. He has been seen in possession of various deviant cantus firmi in unapproved modes as well as recognized as having contact with Renaissance contrapuntal demonic species.

MICHAEL WALDENBY


AAPE's subcommittee The League of Unapologetic Meandering Pandiatonicists (LUMP) has also ordered the arrest of JOSEP VILA I CASANA for his use of intentional, rather than unintentional (pandiatonic) arrival at polytonality in his work "Salve, Regina" also during the outbreak of violations in Dallas, TX. Casaña is also considered dangerous as he is armed with various cabalistic Guidonian Hand sliderule instruments of torture as well as various secret manuscripts by the French heretic Darius Milhaud. Again, the accessory to the crime is the University of Louisville Cardinal Singers directed by Kent Hatteberg.

JOSEP VILA I CASANA

AAPE's affiliated organization Ninths Shallrule Forever (NSF) has also ordered an investigation into the  entire works of BRIAN GALANTE for his failure to end his composition "Exultate" with the required ninth added to the major chord. The accessory to this failure is the Pacific Lutheran University Choir of the West directed by Richard Nance, once again during the scandalous ACDA event in Dallas, TX USA. Once Galante is apprehended NSF believes they can "convince" him to add the required major ninth to this ending as well as all other works in his catalog  and hope that this young man will be rehabilitated.

BRIAN GALANTE


AAPE's other affiliated organization  REALLY REALLY REALLY HOPEFUL yet AMORPHOUS MUSIC (RRR-HAM) has ordered an international arrest warrant for composer PAUL CAREY, who publicly stated during said Dallas, TX outbreak of mayhem that he could not possibly write any scores to such texts about music such as "I am the Music", or "We are the Music", or "You and I and that Sad-Looking Guy over there are the Music". Carey also disavowed any interest in setting texts such as "The Children are our Future so Hold Them Tight and Never Let Them Go even if they Finally Tell you it Hurts",  or even "Sing a Song for the Children, but don't take away their Nintendos if they don't Actually Listen to You", or "The Children are our Song,Yet  Hope for the Future is Actually Quite Dismal but we will Sort-of-mumble-sing about the Children Anyway". Carey is not considered dangerous, just delusional.



Paul Carey



Finally, AAPE continues its plea for cooperation in the discovery, arrest, and imprisonment of Public Enemy Number One, the heretic J.S. BACH who constantly goads AAPE with his gorilla guerilla attacks and who claims recently to have celebrated his 328th birthday. Obviously this is further proof of his unnatural sorcery. There are some rumors that he may have gone underground near this location in Germany.


The most recent brazen contrapuntal attack by Bach and his dastardly minions came in this recent internet post of something called a crab canon (obviously Bach's so-called art is naturally drawn to associate with lower forms of life such as mindless crustaceans):


 


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Recap of the 2013 ACDA National Conference in Dallas- Saturday


As I stated in the previous blog entry, I had to leave Dallas early Saturday to get back to Chicago for a commission premiere. I was sad to leave Dallas and its warm weather, its amazing Arts District of grand performance spaces and excellent art museums, and a variety of dining offerings, but we composers need to be at premieres! So my good friend Reg Unterseher is guest blogging about Saturday, the last day of the Dallas conference. 

Reg Unterseher


Reg is a very cool guy- he has a great baritone voice, wonderful chops as a composer (he is Washington State Music Teachers' Association Composer of the Year for 2013), and is quite visionary about the future of choral music. He is also NW Division Men's R and S chair, and sings with MEN- Male Ensemble Northwest, a truly great group. Reg's website is here. Here is Reg's recap of his Saturday in Dallas:

By the time the last day of any ACDA National Conference rolls around, my ears are full and my body is spent. Saturday in Dallas was no exception. My day started with an 8 AM Men's Chorus Reading session. I am NW Division Men's Choirs R and S chair, so I conducted a couple of pieces. The thing that especially made it worth waking up for was the inclusion of the Turtle Creek Chorale (directed by Trey Jacobs), who served as demonstration choir for three pieces. 

Trey Jacobs


The use of demonstration choirs is something that I think improves the usefulness and musicality of reading sessions. Turtle Creek Chorale stayed for the R and S roundtable session, where they sang some more and took part in the discussion of why men sing, how to get and keep men singing, and how a community of choral singers can have such a huge impact on a person's life. They brought me to tears several times with their stories and their singing.

By the time that session was over, I was even more wrung out, physically and emotionally. Even though there were marvelous choirs on the next scheduled concert, I decided to pace myself and headed to the food trucks instead of the Opera House.



Ah, the Dallas food trucks, and yet also a nod to the goodness that was the Dragonfly Bar at Hotel Zaza (order the Moscow Mule off the drink menu also the Wasabi Wonton Potato Pouches). These trucks were a wonderful aspect of the conference both for the varied and good food and the social aspects. I loved the Ssahm BBQ truck, with their fusion Tex-Korean Daeji and Ddak tacos and kimchee fries. I did not try the bacon wrapped hot dog, but it got my attention. My other favorite was the Cajun Tailgaters truck with the crawfish pistolette, red beans and rice. I did not sample from every truck, so maybe what would have been my favorite passed me by. That’s the way it is with so many things at these conferences, you can't do everything. In any case, with the weather so perfect, I frequently found myself at the picnic tables, in conversation with interesting people who I had never met before and felt like instant friends.

The early Saturday afternoon Gold Track concert in Meyerson featured mixed choirs from Florida State directed by Kevin Fenton, the Fullerton College Chamber Singers directed by John Tebay, and the Kennesaw State Men's Ensemble directed by Leslie Blackwell. I loved the whole thing--varied, excellently prepared, visually interesting without becoming gimmicky; all three choirs exhibiting different ways to be wonderful. My R and S responsibilities will show in my particular enjoyment of the men's ensemble. I had attended Dr. Nicole Lamartine's excellent session on Wednesday morning on women conducting men's ensembles, and Dr. Blackwell's leadership was a great example of how successful this can be. I loved their literature and the creative use of unusual percussion sounds without it turning into a percussion concert.


Nicole Lamartine








Leslie Blackwell


By this time I was starting to feel the onset of a cold, and I had heard so many performances of depth and power that I was considering calling it good and skipping the last concert. In my defense for even considering such a thing, it was my second National Conference of the week, as I had been at the MTNA Conference in Anaheim for four days before coming to Dallas. I had a student in the Senior Voice Finals there, and I am very proud to say she took third place. The opportunity to hear the Tallis Scholars live, though, was too great an opportunity to pass up. I considered hopping tracks to hear them in the glorious acoustic of Myerson Symphony Hall, but had to weigh that against how I felt physically. I bit the bullet and headed to my hotel room to lie down for an hour before hearing them in the Winstead Opera House at the evening performance.

Feeling much better for having taken the break, I arrived early and found myself in the company of Bruce Browne, Kevin Memley, and Ethan Sperry. I am constantly amazed at the brilliant, open, friendly folks I am allowed to rub shoulders with at ACDA, such a treat. We were in the center close to the front, which we all felt was the best place to hear well in Winstead. In Meyerson, I loved sitting on the side in the box seats, where I could both see well and almost watch the sound swirl around the hall and perfectly tail off towards heaven through that dome above the balcony. Getting to hear the organ in those AGO sponsored pre-concert mini-concerts was fantastic, BTW.

The first chorus, the University of Delaware Chorale directed by Paul Head, had well-balanced literature, from Byrd to Bruckner to modern composers, including some that I did not know but will now look out for. They gave an energetic, excellent performance.


The second chorus was the San Antonio Chamber Choir directed by Scott MacPherson. I was immediately struck with the richness of the sound, especially the basses, in a room that seemed to me to favor the upper voices. They had a mature sound, a rich and dense program, different than any of the other programs I heard. I always love the infinite variety of excellence that can exist, and how different choirs can sound so different from each other and still be spectacular.


Scott MacPherson


Then, the Tallis Scholars came out on stage and began singing what was for me the standout performance of the entire conference. A quick aside—I tried something for all the concerts that I had never done before, which was to not take or read any programs, just listen to the music and watch the performance to see if this reduced the influence of my prejudices. I would not do this every conference, but I am glad I tried it. They began with Palestrina, as so many things should. It was fascinating to hear them take a few bars to really find each other's voices in the hall, having just come from singing the same program in the very different acoustic environment of Meyerson. It was, of course, well sung right from the start, but then it became almost miraculous. Next, they sang the piece commissioned for their 40th anniversary season, Whitacre's "Sainte-Chapelle." I am glad to say that it was truly crafted for the approach, sound, and programming of the Tallis Scholars, starting with a chant melody that moved into contrapuntal textures and allusions. It was not just another series of cluster chords, something I had heard more than enough of by the end of the conference, though by the middle it was identifiably a Whitacre piece and did have plenty of his signature harmonic structure and movement.

The Tallis Scholars



Then, the Pärt Nunc Dimittis-from the first bar, my eyebrows went up at the thought of doing this piece with just ten singers. It was a revelation, in so many ways. When the C# Major “Lumen” progression rang that room, I could not breathe for a few seconds. I could feel the sound in my whole body. Now, I had happily felt the power of opening up the floodgates of a large chorus many times during the conference, but this was different. True, they were singing with full resonance, but it was not the volume that gave it such power. It was the alignment, balance, and connectedness of the sound. I will remember that sound, I can still hear it in my head. In the whole conference, those 15 seconds were the absolute peak for me. When Pärt writes a major chord, it sounds more major than when anyone else does. I feel like now I know what a major chord really sounds like.

From the Pärt Nunc they took us straight into the Palestrina Nunc, perfect Palestrina bookends. When they were done, the audience of course would not sit down or stop clapping until they came out for an encore. The Tallis “Loquebantur variis linguis” was another perfect choice. With its unapologetic dissonances, it sounds timeless.

These three choirs of the last concert represented so well for me three very important faces of choral music--the energy of a large ensemble of young singers, the depth of a medium sized group of mature singers, and the pinnacle of what a world-class, targeted, visionary small ensemble can achieve.

COMING UP NEXT: Uncle Paul's short recap of the whole conference, with shout-outs to some of the people who made this whole thing happen.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Recap of the 2013 ACDA National Conference in Dallas

The Friday evening concert at the ACDA 2013 National Conference in Dallas held three choirs- the Union High School Chamber Choir from Vancouver, WA directed by Mikkel Iverson; Chroma, the womens ensemble of Seattle Pro Musica directed by Karen Thomas; and the University of Louisville Cardinal Singers directed by Kent Hatteberg. The Cardinal Singers were happy to be back from Vatican City after electing a new pope.

Union High School presented a program of music all by living Washington state composers. The choir sang with great skill and confidence and as each piece finished the audience grew more and more enthusiastic. A new Ethan Sperry Indian-influenced piece in manuscript titled Albela Sjan was led by a tabla player with great effect- this will no doubt be another hit for Ethan.

Ethan Sperry

The totally engaged audience spurred the choir on and by the time this program ended with two movements of John Muehleisen's Eat your Vegetables (very campy in the best sense of the word) it was obvious that this choir was on a par with many a university choir. Iverson and the choir are high-achievers and it was an absolute delight to hear a fine high school ensemble singing advanced, adventurous (yet still appropriate for their age) music. I would also like to applaud the composers on this program for cultivating their own voice- I heard no blatant Lauridsen or Whitacre imitations, and also generally  heard no blandly simplistic forms of homophonic music. This concert made all the many ACDA members in attendance from Washington state and the Northwest division quite proud.

Mikkel Iverson

The NW flavor continued with one of the few women's ensembles at this years conference, Chroma directed by Karen Thomas. Their program was probably the most adventurous one I heard in the whole conference. Some of the pieces were moderately avant-garde which something really missing from this conference- most of the "new" music on programs were safe plays and, again, mostly homophonic pandiatonicism in one way or another). Thomas led the ensemble with great skill and the ensemble was an apt model of the new sound that has developed in women's choirs in the last 10-15 years- strong, full-bodied women's voices covering large territories of tessitura and dynamic range. To me the highlight of their program was an odd, very subdued and mysterious setting of the Charles Orleans text Quant j'ai ouy le tabourin. The choral tone palette of the choir here was mystical and intimate. Thomas' own Wild Nights, a setting Emily Dickinson's R-rated poem was passionate and - oh yeah, sexy and wild! The group then finished their set with a rollicking Bulgarian folk song sung expertly in the style made famous by the Bulgarian State Radio Female Vocal Choir. Thomas displayed expertise in this, to many, unusual singing style both in this concert as well as in her "Into the Mind" session a day earlier. This was another state of Washington triumph.


Karen Thomas

The evening ended with a performance by one of the premiere choral ensembles in the country, the University of Louisville Cardinal Singers directed by Kent Hatteberg. This was the third time I have heard them- the first time was an epic all-Baltic program at the ACDA 2009 Southern Division conference and their more recent NCCO performance here. For this evening Hatteberg once again showed his great knowledge of current  non-American choral repertoire. The program opened with a piece I am a big fan of- Josep Vila i Casana's Salve, Regina, which I first heard in a performance at the Western division conference of 2010 in Tucson directed by Brady Allred (review here). There is an absolutely magical passage when Casanas music becomes mesmerizingly polytonal. This is no bland,  accidental pandiatonic collision of notes, but true dissonance created by clashing chords. This Salve, Regina is something more conductors need to discover. After some great Monteverdi and Max Reger, an actual four-part fugue broke out (it was kind of like a fugue flashmob, man) in Swedish composer Michael Waldenby's Hominus dies. While the piece seemed a bit too long and not that great, I was pleasantly shocked to hear some- wait for it- REAL COUNTEPOINT! Hurray to Hatteberg for presenting such a musical curiosity. The entire program was excellent and beautifully sung- that's what this choir does! If you have never heard them, try to find a way to get to one of their concerts. Bravo to Hatteberg for being one of standard-setters not only in choral sound but also in presenting high quality repertoire, much  off it off the proverbially beaten path.


Kent Hatteberg
My evening ended with a visit to the NCCO (National Collegiate Choral Organization) reception where I had a chance to chat with cool folks like Josh Bronfman, Steve Grives, Steven Sametz, Giselle Wyers, as well as Mike Murphy from Idaho who I had not yet met. The NCCO reception was great and we all look forward to the NCCO conference in late October in Charleston, South Carolina hosted by Rob Taylor and of course led by current president Lisa Graham.

ADDENDUM to any earlier blog: During the Friday afternoon gold track concert Tim Sharp gave a state of ACDA address. It was pretty positive information about membership, initiatives and so on. Tim has led this group so successfully into the twenty-first century and has expanded the association into global initiatives and collaborations. Bravo, Tim and and to all at the national office in OKC. Tim also announced that the Brock commission composer for 2013 will be Alice Parker and for the 2014 national conference in Salt Lake City the composer will be Jake Heggie- quality folks, although Heggie has written very little choral music.

I had to leave early Saturday morning to get back to Chicago for the premiere of a new commission later on that day. I went from 75 degrees and sunny in Dallas to 25, cloudy, windy, and the streets filled with 20-somethings who had already been drinking way too much cheap beer in "celebration" of  St. Paddy's Day. The shift in weather was a shock, but the drinking wasn't. I'm pretty much used to seeing the ridiculous drinking that goes on here on St Paddy's Day-ugh. So......

COMING UP: The final day of ACDA 2013 in Dallas from guest-blogger Reg Unterseher. Reg has some good stuff for you (including some great insight into listening to The Tallis Scholars), and I think he's a better writer than me- so enjoy this when I post it!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Recap of the 2013 ACDA National Conference in Dallas: Friday

Friday at ACDA in Dallas

Friday morning for me began with attending the two year college reading session. The session was well-attended and the music was all quite good; once again, another quality reading session.

Next up I attended Debra Spurgeon's interest session which centered on the release of her new book "Conducting Women's Choirs: Strategies for Success" (published by GIA). You can read my review of this book here. Debra was able to gather all but one of her chapter writers for this session. Those attending were Hilary Apfelstadt, Lynne Gackle, Lori Hetzel, Mary Hopper, Iris Levine, Jeannette MacCallum, Janna Montgomery, Joelle Norris, Sandra Peter, Sandra Snow, Phillip Swan, and Shelby Wahl. Nancy Menk was not available as she was on tour with her choir. Debra was kind enough to also acknowledge other contributors to the book who were in attendance such as myself, Joan Szymko, Carol Barnett, and Sharon Paul.



Debra had each chapter author give a thumbnail sketch of their contribution and the session went very well and was highly attended. I especially liked Jeannette McCallum's words about the Venetian ospedali and her negative view toward pieces presented these days for women's choirs made available by composers and publishers which are just poor rewrites of SATB music (this is a pet peeve of mine as well, and I talk about it in the interview Nancy Menk did with me for the book).

After the session ended all the authors and their audience walked over to the GIA booth where they sold and signed the book for those who wanted a copy. I dropped over  an  hour later after and they were still signing books! For those of you who work with women's choirs, you really should buy this wonderful book.

I skipped the 2 PM concert in order to continue doing some off the beaten track activities. I attended a Paul Head/University of Delaware session of "Into the Mind"; these are thirty minute informal sessions with directors performing at the conference (usually with their choir in attendance)  talking about the music they are doing and details of their work. These session also provided some Q and A time as well. Head's session was quite good and the Swiss composer Ivo Antognini was there since Head was doing a piece of his- Ivo proved to be quite a sweet guy. He even stood up and directed the choir for a bit and admitted he had never directed a choir before- it was a cute moment.

Paul Head

I had also earlier attended two other "Into the Mind" sessions. They were Karen Thomas' excellent session with her women's choir Chroma where Karen talked about their repertoire, including the tone-color requirements of singing Bulgarian folk music and Jerry McCoy's session where he shared all sorts of great details and tips on how to successfully record your choir and choose your repertoire in order to gain a slot on a divisional or national conference concert session.  For those in the audience Jerry's tips were great info. The Into the Mind sessions were new for ACDA- I think they are a keeper.

After Head's session I went and watched Ken Fulton work with young collegiate conducting students. The repertoire they were working on were the openings of the Faure and Durufle Requiems. Fulton was great to watch and the main thing he kept stressing to the young conductors was to not rush these openings, especially not to be in such a gosh darn hurry at cadences, and to keep soft dynamic levels under control. Each conductor did a great job and I believe they left with some new ideas from Fulton.

The 4:30 concert session was excellent. Phillip Brunelle's Vocalessence sang an unusual program of music in Spanish, much of it from the New World. Vocalessence sang this program very well. The same was true of the Houston Chamber Choir directed by Robert Simpson They sang a quite difficult program with great skill and a very broad dynamic range. The focus of their program was Dominic DiOrio's kaleidoscopic "A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass" for SATB and marimba. Those of you looking for a fine choral piece with percussion by a rising young composer should definitely look at this piece (published by G. Schirmer catalog #HL 50498607.

Dominic DiOrio

The absolute highlight to me of this conference (other than the War Requiem) was the performance on this session by the Pacific Lutheran University Choir of the West directed by Richard Nance. Here is their program:

Exultate                                 by Brian Galante
When David Heard                  by Thoma Weelkes
Luxuriosa Res                        by Zdenek Lukas
Sept Chansons                       by Francis Poulenc
(three of these were sung)
Northern Light                        by Eriks Esenvalds
So I'll Sing with my Voice        by Dominick Argento

Galante's Exultate was full of prismatic color and energy. This is a very exciting new piece in manuscript by Brian and I would love to hear it again. The choir sang this excellent concert opener with energy and precision. The Weelkes was a perfect contrast, sombre yet still full of wonderful richness. The chansons by Poulenc are filled with potential tuning landmine issues, yet this choir never faltered as they traversed passages which have tripped up many a good choir. The French diction was perfect. Northern Lights was a premiere with the composer in presence all the way over from Europe. This was an amazing piece and utilized tuned water glasses and hand chimes. The texts were creatively assembled (I am sorry I cannot give accurate details of them as I seem to be missing my concert program) and the piece displayed a creative, individual voice, something we all are hoping to hear from composers. Esenvalds has used choir and handbells for concert music before to great effect- I would just hope that he does this only occasionally and not overuse the idea.

Brian Galante

Eriks Esenvalds (apparently looking up at King Kong?)

The concert ended with a delightful tune by Argento in the style of an Alice Parker spiritual. As this amazingly varied program ended the audience erupted into wild applause- the conducting was masterful yet never got in the way of the choir or the scores, and the singing was perfection in every detail. Dynamics ranged from a hush to a roar, diction was perfect, tone quality changed from piece to piece, and phrasing was always natural and fluid. I think everyone in the audience knew they had just heard a performance of a lifetime by Nance and the choir. I saw Richard later that night and he indeed called it the highlight of his career!

Richard Nance


COMING UP: FRIDAY EVENING CONCERT AND THE NCCO RECEPTION

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Recap of the 2013 ACDA National Conference in Dallas- Thursday Evening

Thursday Afternoon and Evening

My Thursday afternoon was taken up in meetings with Roger Dean/Lorenz, my main publisher (other than my current drive toward more self-publishing) as well as talks with various conductors. I missed a few performances but they were mostly choirs I have already heard and like- the Crystal Children's Choir comes to mind, what a great group (catch them sometime).

Thursday evening for gold track folks like myself held the Brock Commission premiere of Steven Stucky's "Take Him, Earth" and the Britten "War Requiem". Reg Unterseher and I were there early enough to grab some great seats (lower balcony front row) and the concert was one to remember for a lifetime. Stucky's elegiac piece is dedicated to John F. Kennedy (and we are in the 50th anniversary of the assassination right there in Dallas) yet is universal in text choice- JFK is never mentioned directly in the texts. The texts are quite sublime and highly expressive. They are by Aurelius, Aeschylus, Prudentius, and Shakespeare. The Shakespeare quote is from act two of Romeo and Juliet (cited by Robert F. Kennedy a few months after JFK's death):

When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

Steven Stucky


I liked this piece very much but it really needs more than one hearing to grasp. That is a good thing, I hope you will agree. I would like to be able to explore its nuances AND understand its main arc through more listenings. The piece is for SATB and nine instruments- two violins, viola, cello, bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, and horn (I do not know if there is or will be a performance version with piano only). The ensemble under Craig Jessop was impeccable and the singers- well, let's talk about that. I was amazed to note in an emergency ACDA NW posting I saw to learn (just about two days before the conference) that due to the government financial sequester that the choirs who had been rehearsing in DC with Jessop and who were to perform this piece (and the JFK tribute at the JFK memorial on Friday), namely THE JOINT SERVICE CHORUS (members of the Air Force Singing Sergeants, Army Chorus, and Navy Sea Chanters) were forbidden to make the trip to Dallas. This very late governmental decision would have hamstrung anyone else but musicians. Instead of giving up on performing these pieces, Tim Sharp, Karen Fulmer, Terry Price (and I don't know who else?) put out a call to ACDA members with high skill sets to see if ACDA could still go ahead with these performances. Who else but classically trained singers could dare to do such a thing (does the general public have any real idea about how highly skilled many of us are)? About 40 singers rallied to the cause immediately and I must tell you that their singing was exceptional, and highly artistic and expressive. No one on the planet would have guessed that these amazing singers had not seen these scores until about 48-72 hours before the premiere of the Stucky on Thursday night. I am amazed by what they achieved- they had only one rehearsal on each piece!

The Britten War Requiem followed. I had only heard it once before live, and was really excited to be able to hear this piece in such a venue and with such great performers. I believe most of the orchestra were members of the Dallas Symphony. The Dallas Symphony Chorus directed by Josh Habermann and the Childrens Chorus of Greater Dallas, directed by Cynthia Nott, made up the choral forces. The conductor was Craig Jessop and the soloists were Barbara Shirvis, soprano; Stanford Olsen, tenor; and Philip Cutlip, baritone.

Craig Jessop
I had never seen Jessop conduct with such amazing grand scope and yet still fine detail- this was a conducting performance for the ages. Shirvis, singing from the midst of the balcony chorus area was magical and her voice awe-inspiring in its clarity and power. Olsen and Cutlip sang the most heart-wrenching parts of the piece, and were equally up to the task.

Both the adult chorus and the children chorus were extraordinary- this was choral singing on a level you rarely hear. Every syllable of every word was important, every phrase sung with nuance, every part of the story told. Bravo to Josh and Cynthia- and everyone felt the same as I, the extra bows for them and the choirs were numerous. I hope that the children in Cynthia's choir know what this evening meant to all of us hearing them. What a great bunch of young people, many of whom I saw outside later on and who were all beaming with pride. Finally, the orchestra played with passion and pathos. The chamber orchestra toward the front of the stage was especially expressive and magical- this group is made up of almost the same instruments as the small group for the Stucky (with harp added). Their virtuosity was remarkable. So I think that by now you understand that this concert was epic in proportion (and that I am running out of adjectives!). One last note- as the piece ended in pianissimo, Jessop touched his fingers together in the air to hold and then very slowly release the last sound. But even yet he had only released the musicians- not the audience- he then held that position for a very long time and there was not a noise in the hall until he finally released this fingertip pose/gesture. Even then silence remained for awhile, and in a sense, time stood still, we were all so entranced and overwhelmed by the soul of this great piece. Finally there was thunderous applause, and the many curtain calls lasted for a very long time. Special applause and hollers went to the childrens choir, a very touching way for us as an adult audience to recognize their artistry. Bravo to all.

Joshua Habermann



Cynthia Knott


My evening ended with a trip to the President's Reception (this would be through invitation of incoming president Karen Fulmer who led the planning for this great conference) way up on one of the top floors of the Sheraton (nice view!). I was happy to see very cool people there including many folks from IFCM and foreign countries as well as folks I already knew well  like Rick Bjella, Karyl Carlsen, Mary Hopper, and others. I was also happy to get a chance to meet Susan Knight from the Festival 500 organization, someone I had been wanting to meet for quite awhile.


So that was my Thursday at ACDA- it was aboutt sixteen hours of great activities!

COMING UP: FRIDAY AT ACDA, including an absolutely astounding performance by the Pacific Lutheran University choir under Richard Nance

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