Wednesday, September 30, 2015

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!

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