Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Aurora University Choral Festival Blogpost #2 Loosin Yelav

This is blogpost number two about the upcoming October 21st choral festival at Aurora University showcasing my choral music. Today I'll be discussing Loosin Yelav, the Armenian folk song which the Waubonsee Community College Choir, under Mark Lathan (see more down below) will be singing.

Loosin Yelav (The Rising Moon)

SA/solo violin/piano Cat #679       Santa Barbara Music Press

sbmp score and recording

SATB/solo violin/piano Cat. #698        Santa Barbara

sbmp score and recording

I was asked by Mary Alice Stollak, a great conductor (now retired) from Michigan, and recipient of two Grammy awards(!) to arrange this song for her choir at that time, the amazing Michigan State University Children's Choir (the top group is usually high school girls plus some boys with uncharged voices). Mary Alice, early on in her career as a soprano soloist had performed the version of the song by Italian avant-garde 20th century composer Luciano Berio, which is part of his set of folk songs from different countries. Mary Alice felt that this lovely tune would be delightful in choral arrangement. She asked me to do it for her choir and I agreed.

One of the things I tried to accomplish in my setting was to give the illusion of space--- in a sense, the expanse of space as we raise our eyes off of what is in front of us (texting on a cellphone perhaps?) and behold amazing things way up in the sky--like the Moon! One way I did this was to create a rising introduction in the solo violin part; create a rubato, floating feeling in the voices (in the slower sections); and write a piano part which would utilize the whole keyboard, including stretching all the way up to the top of the keyboard. Of course, in the more dancelike sections of the piece that expansiveness doesn't exist. There we're just having fun dancing!!

A rough translation of the text:

The moon has risen over the hill,
over its summit,
its red, rosy face
brilliantly illuminating the earth.

O dear moon, with your dear light
and your dear round and rosy face.

Before darkness reigned
covering the earth; 
but now the light of the moon has chased it away
into the dark clouds.

O dear moon, with your dear light
and your dear round and rosy face.

This piece has proven to be quite popular with singers and audiences. It has been performed on a number of continents, including a wonderful performance directed by the famous conductor Andre Thomas at a festival in England. The piece is easily learned as the Armenian is not difficult. When I visit choirs and work on the piece we mostly have to work together to create two different worlds-- that floating in the sky rubato and then the exhilarating little folk dance that pops up. It's usually pretty easy to get young singers to have fun with this piece.

Here again is the video I shared  a few days ago. This was created by a parent of a young singer performing in a festival choir I was conducting in Pennsylvania. I love the amazing images of Armenia in this little video.

Here is a perfomance at a recent Georgia All-State conducted by the wonderful Jeffery Ames from Belmont University:

Here is the Berio version sung beautifully:

Ready for some more fun? Along with fellow Italian modernists such as Bruno Maderna, Luigi Dallapiccola, and Luigi Nono, Luciano Berio (1925-2003) enjoyed a highly successful career as a composer in the second half of the 20th century. Here is the amazing third movement of his Sinfonia composed in 1969, featuring the Swingle Singers. This is a truly wild segment of the piece-- a bizarre musical collage thrillride through the Symphony #2 Scherzo of Mahler plus quotes from other composers: Ravel, Debussy, Brahms, and many more!

If this music mystifies you, you can Wikipedia Berio Sinfonia and read a decent explanation of what's going on!

The Waubonsee Community College Chorale

Dr. Mark Lathan

Born and raised in the Chicago area, Dr. Mark Lathan received his Bachelor's degree in performance from Northern Illinois University in 1983, where he studied trumpet with Ron Modell and jazz arranging with Frank Mantooth. Earning his Ph.D. in 2001 from UCLA, Lathan studied composition with Roger Bourland, David Lefkowitz, and Ian Krouse. While at UCLA he received the Henry Mancini Award in Film Composition and studied film scoring with Jerry Goldsmith.

He counts among his compositions numerous compositions and arrangements for jazz and chorus, as well as several film scores and a number of concert pieces including two choral cantatas, Inheritance of Love and Song of Hope.  Lathan's various compositions have been published by C. L. Barnhouse, Doug Beach Music, Yelton Rhodes Music, and Art of Sound Publishing. He was a contributing arranger for Louis Bellson's Sacred Concerto which was released on the Percussion Power label in 2005. Two of his arrangements appear on the CD release "Above and Beyond" by the Los Angeles Flute Quartet and his Trumpet Concerto was premiered by Mark Baldin and the Rockford, IL Symphony in 2009 as part of their 75th Anniversary Season Celebration.  "Echale Todas Las Ganas" ("Give It All You Got"), a commissioned composition for Wheeling High School?s Jazz Band I, was premiered at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in December 2013.

Lathan is currently in his thirteenth year as Music Professor at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, IL where he directs the Waubonsee Chorale and teaches theory, composition, trumpet, and humanities.

Aurora University Choral Festival- Blogpost #1

Coming up on the evening of October 21st my choral music will be celebrated in a concert by multiple high school and college choirs in Crimi Auditorium at Aurora University. For more information on this free, open to the public event visit concert details  Please come and hear the fine choirs singing that evening!

I am humbled by this honor-it's the first time anyone has thrown me a party and filled an entire program with just my music! Lisa Fredenburgh, the head of the music department at Aurora U, developed the idea for this event over last spring and summer and Lisa and I enjoyed getting together to discuss how to make it happen. She sent out invitations to various area choral ensembles and we were fortunate to have some great directors respond with interest (some others couldn't commit to the October date, but I hope that in the future they can do some work with Lisa in some way--she's a great musician and so enthusiastic when working with singers). The directors who will be conducting that evening are very talented, classy folks. I'm thrilled with who chose to participate!

Dr. Lisa Fredenburgh, Aurora University

The schools singing (and the repertoire they have chosen) at the concert will be:

Waubonsee Community College, directed by Mark Lathan

Loosin Yelav (an Armenian folk song)

Mettea Valley High School, directed by Nathan Bramstedt

A City called Heaven (an African-American spiritual)

Carthage College Women's Ensemble, directed by Peter Dennee

This Sparkle of the Day (world premiere, multi-movement sacred piece)

Rock Valley College Choirs, directed by Paul Laprade

Thou art the Sky

Life has Loveliness to Sell

Aurora University Choirs, directed by Lisa Fredenburgh

Shall we Gather at the River/Jerusalem My Happy Home (the last movement of God's Nature)

Melt the Bells (from A Civil War Requiem)

Mashed Potato Love Poem (from Play with your Food)

Alley Cat Love Song
Blood, Guts, and Arias: a Zombie Opera (excerpts)

Massed Concert-Ender: Go Down Moses (spiritual)

It has been interesting to me to see what pieces the directors have chosen. I didn't give them much input, as I thought it would be best to let them choose. At this point I am very happy with their choices, and in many ways they have chosen pieces that emphasize the trends in my output. For instance, I have a commitment to contribute to the legacy of the African-American spiritual and the audience that night will hear two very different spiritual arrangements. A City Called Heaven (in a rare setting for women's voices) is a mournful, desperate introspective cry for salvation, while Go Down, Moses is propelled forward by a very active piano accompaniment, eventually culminting in a great wall of choral sound toward the end. Lisa has noted my fondness for witty, droll texts. Mashed Potato Love Poem is a prime exmple, as is the tongue in cheek Alley Cat Love Song. Further humor (darker and more satiric) shows up in the exceprts from my Zombie opera, Blood, Guts, and Arias. Finally, a number of pieces have been chosen which exemplify my search for serious texts which probe the inner spirituality of the human condition. Thou art the Sky and Life has Loveliness to Sell would be prime examples of that type of piece.

Over the next week or two I am going to blog about each piece, give some background to how I composed the setting of the text and also why I chose to set it in the first place. I hope this will be of value to the singers of each choir (who, I hope, will visit the blog to read) and anyone else out there wondering what living choral composers are thinking as they compose. Well, actually, sometimes we don't know what we're doing- but we keep slogging on anyway!

NEXT POST: All about Loosin Yelav, a sweet and very expressive Armenian folk song about the moon (actually a red moon--cool that, considering we just witnessed the Supermoon!)

Here's a little teaser--this is a video put together by a parent of a student singing at a vocal festival I was conducting in Pennsylvania a few years ago. We performed Loosin Yelav and this is what they created-- some wonderful images of Armenia here!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Unique Christmas/Winter Holiday Repertoire!

Hi choral directors! Hope your school year/concert season is off to a smashing start.

Are you still looking for "Holiday" repertoire? I've got a number of ideas for you from my catalog- both traditionally published and also published by myself.  While I am especially aiming to gain attention for my book of 18 carols for women's voices, please know that if you scroll down you will find some rep for SATB music as well! Some of those pieces below have rental orchestrations which have been very popular with audiences.

Last Fall I released "Carols, distinctive arrangements for women's voices", and it was an amazing  process to not only research and write the pieces but be my own publisher as well. I had a lot of help from many folks around the country- proofreading, choirs trying out the pieces, etc. It made me really appreciate the talent and the generosity of my musical colleagues. The collection has sold well and was just reviewed very favorably in the August 2014 Choral Journal. Scroll way down to read the review.

Thanks for reading!


18 New Christmas Carol Arrangements
Scored variously for SA, SSA, SSAA a cappella; some with simple instrument parts
Sacred texts in English, Latin, German, French, and Spanish
Durations from 1:30 to 5:00 each carol
Price: $15.95 per copy- FREE SHIPPING on all US and Canada orders  (please note- this is the current price- the Choral Journal mistakenly lists it at $17.95)

Order through or email me at
Also through Musical Resources, the exclusive wholesale distributor

Paypal or conventional billing available

For a limited time- you may order one copy and use it as a master to photocopy from! The fee is only $150 for right to copy in perpetuity. You may NOT share the book or any copies with other directors, churches, or schools. Email me for more details

An exciting new collection of 18 carols in new, creative settings suitable for
high school and beyond women's voices, plus also suitable for advanced treble children's choirs.

- Carols and processionals for both concert or madrigal dinner use
- A mixture of transcriptions, arrangements, and new settings of classic Christmas texts, occaisional solo, duo, and trio passages create variety for strophic carols
- Traditional English and Latin texts, plus settings in French, German, and Spanish
- A mixture of easy to more challenging carols, as well as a wide variety of moods and tempi
- Some carols have instrumental parts for one or two players (for instance harp, two flutes or other melody instruments, cello, percussion). Instrumental parts can be downloaded by clicking on the title below.
If anyone out there with a women's choir or youth advanced treble choir would like a TOTALLY FREE PERUSAL COPY- send me your US or Canada street address and I will get one to you. I think once you examine it, you will agree that it can be a resource you can go to year after year for December programming. Last year a number of the choirs who bought copies did 2,3,4, carols out of the book at their holiday program!

Here are some other pieces of mine, including SATB, 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:

Selling like the provrebial hotcakes is this new arrangment in Henry Leck's wonderful Creating Artistry-- the Chrismtas spiritual Mary, Had a Baby. Click the link for score and recording Mary Had a Baby

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 a rental orchestration for this piece which really makes it pop.

Another bestselling piece which can be either with piano or rental orchestration  is my very dancey SSA version in mixed meters of I Saw three Ships:

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. Contact me at for a perusal score.

Also, a very popular item in the Roger Dean catalog, my fun, uptempo arrangement of Ding, Dong Merrily on High

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.  This piece is now also fully orchestrated.
The ending will ensure that your entire audience is awake:

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!


Paul Carey's work as a choral composer and arranger is well acknowledged and valued.  His newest publication, Carols…for Women's Voices, takes a significant step in furthering his reputation as a composer for treble and women's voices.    Many of Carey's fine and best-selling arrangements and compositions of carols for mixed, children's, men's and women's voices are available through leading publishers such as Oxford University Press, CF Peters, Lorenz, and Roger Dean.  Yet, unlike many compilations of works by modern composers and arrangers, this distinctive collection does not contain works available through other sources or as separate folios. 

Most of the works found in this collection are arrangements of melodies or compositions upon texts from classic manuscripts and various folk sources.   Nonetheless, the recastings of these materials in Carey's hand are fresh and distinctive.  His "Personant Hodie" (from the Piae Cantiones), for example, retains the familiar tune of the work for the most part but lightens the texture with gavotte-like ritornelli and an unexpected reworking of the melody in 7/8.     Other works, such his SSA unaccompanied version of the classic "We Wish You A Merry Christmas", find a different voice through this composer's compositional wit.  As these two examples imply, the collection contains both sacred and secular carols.  In addition, these two arrangements also exemplify the suitability of some of Carey's arrangements for younger choirs.

The title of this collection is somewhat deceiving, for of the eighteen works in this collection, five are entirely new works, penned using familiar texts.  The distinctiveness of even these works can be evinced by comparing two texts that both Carey and Benjamin Britten have set:  "There is no rose of such virtue" and "Adam Lay ybounden" (perhaps most familiar as the text used for Britten's "Deo Gratias" from A Ceremony of Carols ).   The former is richly set with a nearly chantlike solo and responses by duets and a quartet that shimmer with their uses of inversional modal alterations.  The latter text is interpreted through completely new musical lenses.  The ABAB form of Carey's setting alternates between a haunting, contemplative section and a second, more rhythmically driving section.  This compositional choice musically refocuses the text on the apple's theological role, that of emphasizing the praise of the apple's acceptance and its eventual conclusion in the birth of Jesus.   These five original works alone make it difficult to overlook this collection, and underscore the fact that these arrangements can also find a home in the repertories of more advanced treble/women's choirs.

Cristobal de Morales' O Magnum Mysterium is the only work included in this collection where Carey assumes the singular role of editor.  As would be expected, Carey's edition is much more lightly edited than the classic (SSAA) Schirmer edition by Goodale, but the choice of transcribing this work a half-step higher mirrors a significant characteristic of this collection as a whole—each of these "distinctive arrangements" are sensitive to the distinct characteristics of women's voices.  The Morales is often performed in this key, as it simply resounds better and navigates the passaggi more easily.  Furthermore, such sensitivity extends to the variety of texture, styles, tempi, voicings, and languages (french, latin, spanish, german, and english) found herein.  Carey's collection is varied enough to lend variety to any program built from its offerings, yet cohesive enough to lend solidity to such a performance. (Note: This reviewer acknowledges having contributed to the translations of French texts and initial readings of some of the works in this volume.) 

The quality of these arrangements and the breadth of stylistic variety reflected in this holiday collection for treble voices is nearly unparalleled; for choral ensembles and programs of all types, and for churches with treble ensembles, this fine publication could reasonably be expected to occupy a similar place in holiday/Christmas libraries as the Oxford Book of Carols and Carols for Choirs currently hold.  Well edited by Carey and "tested" by various types of treble/women's choruses, this solid collection possesses enough musical gold to fit the needs of many types of choirs, performances, and even educational functions.