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.

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

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.


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.



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.


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