Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Children Like Not Dead Composers! They Really Do!

Paige Mathis, the very talented music director of the Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde contacted me this past summer to ask if I would like to be part of a new project the choir was undertaking. To begin  their program "The Composer Next Door" they wanted me to be the first composer to participate. Since I often advertise myself as a not-yet-dead composer I believe they found the perfect fit! Here are some excerpts ( posted variously by  singers and directors) from their blog about the experience:

From Dec. 5, 2012

 Believe it or not, classical composers aren't all dead. Some are very much alive and living amongst us. The Composer Next Door Project of the ATLANTA YOUNG SINGERS of Callanwolde grew out of the idea that singers can really understand the music they are singing a lot better when they can engage with composers themselves, and organize activities themselves from a kid's perspective.

So here's how it works: For each concert that the AYS choir produces during the 2012-2013 Season, the Music Director selects one living composer to be featured. Singers volunteer to organize how they and their fellow singers will get to know the featured  composer. 

From Dec. 15, 2012


AYS kids Skype with Paul Carey

AYS members Skype with Composer Paul Carey. The Singers are preparing his two pieces Unending Flame and Come Christmas the Morn at their concerts on December 15 and 20.

Another post from Dec. 15th post:

Hello Everyone,

I wrote the paragraph below from the answers that Paul Carey gave to our questions during our Skype conversation (the one in Brianne's photo!).  He was really nice to speak with, and after the interview, we sang his songs for him.

Paul Carey is the wonderful and talented musician who wrote Come Christmas the Morn and Unending Flame.  He has been interested in music since he was ten years old, but he actually started writing music in high school.  His favorite styles of music are classical, renaissance, and 20th century jazz [I thumb my nose at that lame 15th century jazz with all its cutesy sharp 9, sharp 11 ficta].  He loves music because it is, I quote, "mysterious and it is all around you."  He also loves to work with kids and teach them about his music and other people's music.  He likes to see kids' reactions when singing a piece of music, and he also wants to make sure kids don't think all composers are dead!  


From Jan. 15, 213

New Year reflections

With December in the rear view mirror, it's good to look at Atlanta Young Singers' first installment of kid-managed interactions with very-much-alive composers.As a teacher watching the kids talk with our featured composer Paul Carey in December, it was great to see how they began to change their view of music itself. I think they have greater excitement and healthy curiosity for the notes and rhythms on the page as they relate to a breathing human being--one who has a family and home, and is, for all intents and purposes, a pretty normal guy.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed performing Paul Carey's music and I think they had a greater sense of pride in performing it because they had some sort of connection with the composer. After performing Carey's Unending Flame and Come Christmas the Morn, we heard lots of "Can we do that again next year?" Introducing new music at a holiday concert can be tricky, but this music was inspiring and fresh--especially the treatment of "Now Every Child"  from Silver, Sand and Snow by Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965), the text used in Come Christmas the Morn.

I really liked the way that the adults had the children organize activities and conduct the Skype session. Kids are happy when adults get out of their way!The Skype session really was a lot of fun. My 9 year old Aidan was curious to know what was going on (usually I Skype in isolation to appear professional) and wandered into the office. He wound up sitting on my lap and listening in and also introduced our cat, Poka, to the choir. They thought Aidan and Poka were pretty cool. This also helped make them fully realize that composers are real people too, with litterboxes to clean and children to tickle, I guess.

 If you want to see all the posts in entirety- here's the thread to start on:

And hmm,  do I want to be known as normal (as Paige says I am)? Am I normal? Does anyone who puts maple syrup on grilled cheese sandwiches normal? Does anyone who pines to have a baby Congo buffalo as a pet really qualify as normal? The themes of my last three commissions: peace, dona nobis pacem (which of course is peace too), and zombies singing Richard Strauss as they eat your brains- is THAT normal? So there, take that, "normal"!

Congrats to Paige and her fine choir for starting this project. Maybe other choirs  will want to borrow some of the ideas.

Paige Fumbanks Mathis, Music DirectorPaige Fumbanks Mathis, Music Director, Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde
Paige Fumbanks Mathis was named Music Director of ATLANTA YOUNG SINGERS of Callanwolde in May of 1998 and is the first holder of the Stephen J. Ortlip chair. Ms. Mathis received her undergraduate degree in Music Education from Jacksonville State University and her Master of Music degree in conducting from the Conservatory of Music of the University of Missouri - Kansas City. She founded the Youth Chorale in 1994 as an expansion program of Atlanta Young Singers. She is a long-standing member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Chamber Chorus where she sang and recorded under the baton of the late Robert Shaw. Ms. Mathis is also a proud AYS alumna.


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