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Monthly Archives: January 2018

  • Learning the Essentials with Mark Lawson

    Guest post by Mark Lawson

    Here is a quick quiz…..what are five choral pieces that every high school or college student should sing before they are conductors themselves? Is there a common set of pieces that make up the core repertoire? Most of us in the choral world can agree on many pieces that should be included in the canon...but where would someone relatively new go to find this authoritative list?

    I remember as a new choral director fresh out of college, searching for not only new literature, but wondering about what I had missed. A single class in choral literature did not prepare me for the challenges of picking pieces year after year, and I remember how difficult it was trying to find pieces that would work well for my choir and for this or that occasion, when I just didn't have that mental list built up yet. When I did finally find an appropriate piece, it seemed like a hidden gem, and I couldn't believe it had passed me by in all of my studies!

    In September 2017, The Choral Journal published a listing of the most recommended choral music that appeared on state repertoire lists. This article helped us realize that many of those pieces have been a staple in the E. C. Schirmer and Galaxy catalogs for years. We decided to pull together over 60 choral pieces and group them together as a series called Choral Essentials.

    Personal favorites such as Randall Thompson’s Alleluia and Paul Manz’s E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come are grouped with Ave Maria by Victoria, and Ave verum Corpus by Byrd to create a wonderful compendium of great choral classics.

    Randall Thompson: Alleluia
    Paul Manz: E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come
    Victoria: Ave Maria
    Byrd: Ave verum corpus

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I hope you will take time to explore this part of the website and make some new discoveries. We think this will be a welcomed series for both new and experienced conductors.

    Visit the Choral Essentials series page here.


    Mark Lawson

    Mark Lawson is the President of ECS Publishing Group, which represents E. C. Schirmer, Galaxy, and MorningStar.

     

  • Neil Harmon: Featured Sacred Composer

    This month we're featuring composer Neil Harmon!

    Neil Harmon

    Acclaimed as "one of the finest products of the American organist school," [La Nuova Venezia] Neil Harmon enjoys a career as organist, conductor, composer, and teacher. He is Director of Music and Organist at Grace United Methodist Church in Wilmington, Delaware, where he directs a semiprofessional choir, a youth choir, and two bell choirs. A graduate of The Eastman School of Music (DMA, MM) and Brigham Young University (BM), Dr. Harmon has performed in South America, Europe, and the United States. His organ teachers include Linda Wildman, Parley Belnap, Richard Elliott, Don Cook, Russell Saunders, David Craighead, and Michael Farris.

    Dr. Harmon's compositions include a seven-movement Requiem for choir, orchestra, and soprano, as well as music for solo organ, handbell choir, mixed chorus, woodwind quintet, and brass quintet. Active in the Delaware Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, Dr. Harmon served two terms as chapter Dean and twice as Co-Director of the Delaware Pipe Organ Encounter. Neil and his wife, Anese, are the parents of five children.

    Harmon is particularly known for his Requiem, which was released in 2014. The dedication is "For the Grace United Methodist Church Choir, Wilmington, Delaware, in memory of loved ones." A full video by Saint James' Episcopal Church in Warrenton, VA, is below.

    Latest MorningStar organ publications from Neil Harmon:
    Reflections
    In Memoriam
    In Prayer
    Latest MorningStar choral publications from Neil Harmon:
    Did You Think to Pray?
    In the Bleak Midwinter
    The Lord Is My Shepherd
  • Tried & True Works for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter

    Guest post by Kelly Dobbs-Mickus

    At MorningStar, we strive to publish liturgical music that makes a meaningful contribution to the repertoire. As you prepare for Lent and Easter, perhaps looking for some new ideas, take a few minutes to explore these tried and true editions, from Hal Hopson’s subdued Lenten Prayer to Randall Thompson’s iconic Alleluia.

    Lent and Holy Week

    James Biery’s dignified settings of the Lenten Communion Antiphons will distinguish the Lenten season, and his setting of Ubi caritas is worthy of the Holy Thursday liturgy. Philip Stopford’s Do Not Be Afraid speaks especially to RCIA participants but reminds all that God calls each by name.

    James Biery: Communion Antiphons for the Lenten Season
    Hal H. Hopson: A Lenten Prayer

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Terre Johnson: Create In Me
    James Biery: Ubi Caritas

     

     

     

    Philip W. J. Stopford: Do Not Be Afraid

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Easter

    James Chepponis’s Festival Alleluia (see separate edition for Eastertide verses), premiered at the Papal Mass in St. Louis in 1999, has become a staple gospel acclamation. John Behnke’s festive yet flexible setting of LASST UNS ERFREUEN is a perennial best-seller and is also available in a two- or three-part setting. Consider John Ferguson’s Easter Introit as a choral “prelude” to the singing of EASTER HYMN.

    James Chepponis: Festival Alleluia
    Peter Latona: My Hope Is Arisen

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Randall Thompson: Alleluia
    John Ferguson: Easter Introit

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    John Behnke: Now All The Vault of Heaven Resounds

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    To explore additional liturgical titles, check out these resources from MorningStar Music.

    Lenten and Triduum Choral Resources

    Eastertide Choral Resources


    Kelly's work at MorningStar Music Publishers focuses on resources for Catholic communities. In addition, she is organist at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Chicago.

    Kelly Dobbs-Mickus
  • Tips for Opera Composers to Get Produced

    Guest post by Michael Ching

    In the first week of January, the National Opera Association gathered in New Orleans for its annual conference. An association of mainly college and university operas, the NOA is an important market for new operas. The three day gathering featured a performance at Loyola Opera Theatre of composer Tom Cipullo and librettist David Mason’s After Life. Their work was the winner of the NOA’s 2016-2018 Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition--more on this production here. Competition Guidelines for the next cycle can be found here.

    In addition to the exciting production of After Life, Cipullo and fellow opera composer Michael Ching put together a panel of twenty suggestions for opera composers in order to be successful and produced in today’s marketplace.

    Number one on both Michael and Tom’s lists was “Write excerptible arias.” Arias get performed by singers at auditions, recitals, and juries, and these occasions are like free advertising for new works. Michael jokingly said that he’d offered to pay singers to audition with arias from his operas. If a singer falls in love with an aria from a new work, they can use it as a piece that is uniquely theirs, that makes them stand out from the crowd.

    Another item that both Cipullo and Ching had on their list of suggestions was to learn how to write words. Even though a composer might be working with a librettist, writing their own words can help guide a librettist in order to replicate a certain meter, or amplify a theme that the composer wants to explore musically.

    Other suggestions included the need for the composer to write a piano vocal score and to write music that singers can memorize without excessive study. The full list of suggestions will be published in a future post.

     


     

    Michael Ching

    Michael Ching is a composer and opera consultant for ECS Publishing Group.

  • Chimera | Featured Recording

    Chimera

     

    This month we're featuring Chimera, a new recording out on Albany Records, performed by the Scott/Garrison Duo, and featuring music by ECS composer John David Earnest, among others.

    Earnest's pieces open and close this recording, starting with his Chimera Waltzes for flute, bass flute, clarinet, and piano, and closing with Serenade and Dance for clarinet and piano.

    Listen to Chimera on iTunes or Apple Music

    About the Duo

    The Scott/Garrison Duo, clarinetist Shannon Scott and flutist Leonard Garrison, has performed together since 1988, with a long commitment to contemporary American music. They have been featured at many national conferences of the National Flute Association, College Music Society, and National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors. Scott is on the faculty at Washington State University and is principal clarinet of the Walla Walla Symphony and the Eastern Music Festival, while Garrison teaches at the University of Idaho, is flutist in the Northwest Wind Quintet and principal flute of the Walla Walla Symphony. In this, their third recording for Albany Records, the duo performs works by American composers.

     

    Review
    from Albany Records

    "This is an eclectic mix of contemporary repertoire, played with both technical accomplishment and total commitment. The Scott-Garrison Duo has been performing together since 1988, and has long championed American music of the 20th and 21st centuries…Overall, this is an ambitious, creative, well-performed and recorded disc…Prior recordings by this duo have been enthusiastically received in Fanfare…I am happy to join the fan club." (Henry Fogel, Fanfare)

    "…Given the fine music in a rather wide variety of styles, and the superb, well-recorded performances these pieces receive, there is something for everyone on this CD, and everything for many. Accordingly, I am compelled to grant this CD a very high recommendation." (David DeBoor Canfield, Fanfare)

     

    John David Earnest

     

  • After Life | New Orleans Production

    In January 2018, Loyola University New Orleans gave an excellent production of composer Tom Cipullo's and librettist David Mason's opera, After Life. The piece won the Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition, granted by the National Opera Association (NOA) and was attended by the public as well as members of NOA.

    About the Competition

    From NOA: "The Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition encourages the composition and performance of short operas especially useful in opera workshops and other training venues. The competition runs in two-year cycles. In the first year, composers submit scores for preliminary judging. Three finalists are chosen and excerpts from those operas are presented at the annual convention (odd years) for competition. The winning opera, chosen from among the three finalists, is produced in its entirety at the NOA convention the following year (even years)."

    About the Opera

    After Life imagines a post-mortem reunion of Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein. Stein believes her beloved Alice B. Toklas has conjured her back to life, while Picasso wonders which of his many lovers has called him up from the abyss. When both realize, to their disappointment, that their great loves are not present, the two towering figures discuss their lives, their complex relationship, and their activities during the Second World War. Their outsized egos clash, resentment between them boils over and, as they confront each other, a third voice rises from the darkness. A young girl, a victim of the Holocaust, appears, and it is her questioning that has brought Stein and Picasso back from the dead. Why did she die while they lived on? Can the two artists, whose work endures, ever know death as she does? Who will remember her, when she barely remembers herself? Duration: ca. 45 minutes

    Reviews:

    Cipullo’s musical language, rooted in tonality with generous helpings of dissonance, is direct, succinct and original. His thorough understanding of the human voice allows him to create fully dimensional characters that are sympathetic and imminently believable… [a] finely wrought exploration of the role of art in times of grave crisis.
    -Washington Post, April 4, 2016

    …a compelling hour of musical theater.
    -Seattle Gay News, May 15, 2015

    ...inventive, pitch-perfect, thought-provoking and refreshing.
    -Oregon ArtsWatch

    Roles:
    GERTRUDE STEIN Mezzo-Soprano
    PABLO PICASSO High Baritone
    GIRL (teen, a victim of the Holocaust) Soprano

    Instrumentation:
    Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Piano

    Premier:
    May 11, 2015, Music of Remembrance (Seattle)

     

  • ICYMI: 10 Things Every Opera Composer Should Know

    The National Opera Association hosted their annual conference in New Orleans last week. Composers Michael Ching and Tom Cipullo collaborated to give a great session on getting new opera produced, complete with Ching singing a selection from his hit opera, Speed Dating Tonight. Both Cipullo and Ching have experienced great success in getting their operas performed, with several dozen productions to each of their names.

    Here are their lists!

    Tom Cipullo

    1) Excerptible Arias
    If you want your opera to have a life beyond its premiere, it has to have excerptible arias. For better or worse, singers’ auditions are where opera professionals are most likely to be introduced to your work.

    2) The Orchestra
    When you think you have pared down the accompaniment as much as possible, the orchestra will still be too loud.

    3) Instrumental Interludes
    Put in lots of instrumental interludes! The orchestra needs to become a character that comments on the action.

    4) Ensembles
    Ensembles are the most exciting place in an opera, particularly when the characters have differing points of view. They are also the most fun thing to compose.

    5) Building to the End of the Act
    Study the ends of individual acts by the Donizetti, Verdi, and Puccini. In the best of their works, the momentum of the last 10-15 minutes of an act is unstoppable.

    6) The Libretto
    Many composers would be better off writing their own libretti. It need not be the finest literature of all time, but aside from a handful of libretto-writing specialists in the world, a fairly literate composer will do just fine – and often better than a renowned poet or novelist. Why? Because only the composer knows just what he needs in order for his score to blossom.

    7) The Piano-Vocal Score
    There are arguments to make on both sides, but I strongly believe a composer should make a piano-vocal score early in the process. A composer needs to make one at some point because that’s what singers use to learn the score and rehearse, so why not do it sooner rather than later?

    8) Drama!
    There really is only one priority when composing an opera – drama, drama, drama! The composer is asking people to sit in a dark theater after a hard day at work and a big meal. You have to give the audience enough red-meat moments that they can’t look away or lose interest for a moment. Of course, every one of those dramatic moments must be earned. Nothing can be manipulated or false.

    9) Style and Eclecticism
    Since an opera is all about building characters and creating drama, a composer should feel free to use anything – any device, any style, any effect – to develop those characters and amplify the drama.

    10) Practicality
    It’s difficult enough to produce an opera without adding extra unnecessary challenges. Be guided by the doctrine of practicality in every choice – from the orchestration to the vocal lines to the demands of the set design to scene changes to the number of characters to …everything!

    Michael Ching

    1) Write arias (or ensembles)/minimize recitative
    Funny how we both have this one. It’s important to learn how to write recitative, but it’s also important to minimize it. If you are coming to the opera to hear recitatives, you’re weird...

    2) Remember, they have to memorize it
    Don’t write the vocal lines so hard or disconnected to the accompaniment that singers are always worried about getting lost.

    3) Build characters
    The initial header for this was “tell stories,” but building memorable characters is even more important. Novels do a better job of telling stories.

    4) Ponder a preponderance of periodicity
    Wouldn’t you have liked to have written “voi che sapete” or “Summertime?” I sure would. You don’t have to use this through the whole show if you don’t want to. While you’re at it, write some incredible melodies.

    5) Avoid excessive subtlety
    I’m sorry, but PELLEAS has this problem. Maybe if I was high on psilocybin it would work for me. Opera is a blunt instrument.

    6) Learn to write words and bend the libretto to your musical strength
    Writing at least some words will help you understand what you need as a composer. Make sure the story/libretto shows you off depending on your strength--choruses, orchestration, tunes etc.

    7) Write for replicability
    Study the classics and figure out why they have lasted. Learn from them. By the way, WOZZECK and PETER GRIMES are not “the classics.”

    8) Be humble and collaborative
    The humble chorister and violist have spent more time learning your music than you have, so respect them. If you don’t want to collaborate, go write songs and perform them yourself.

    9) Repeat yourself, repeat yourself
    If you don’t repeat yourself, both in the text and the music, the audience can quickly get exhausted trying to keep up. Attending the opera is like spending time in a foreign city. Exhilarating, fascinating, but sometimes exhausting.

    10) Make your producer active, not passive
    Don’t let your producer say “Do whatever you want, I give you artistic license.” Try to understand what they want out of the project--east coast reviews? local grants? a happy audience? satisfied performers?

  • Martin Luther King Jr. | A Sermon From the Mountain

    Remembering Dr. King by turning to composer Alice Parker's tribute, A Sermon From the Mountain.

    Martin Luther King Jr.

    This work for chorus, solo baritone, strings, guitar, percussion, and organ takes a six-movement form. Composer Alice Parker writes:

    A Sermon From the Mountain is a tribute to the slain leader of the non-violent movement in this country. It was commissioned in April, 1968 [just days after King's assassination], by the Franconia Mennonite Chorus, Hiram Hershey, Conductor, and first performed by them on April 13, 1969. There were two main sources of inspiration for its writing: first, the Biblical verses often quoted by Dr. King as the basis for his beliefs, and the Spirituals which so often uniquely illuminate and apply the texts.

    My sources for the Biblical texts are Dr. King's sermons, articles (notably Letter from Birmingham Jail), and books. Central to an understanding of the man and his mission must be the realization that he took the Sermon on the Mount with complete, terrifying literalness. The basis of the non-violent movement was to "return good for evil. Christ showed us the way, and Mahatma Gandhi showed us it could work." Also, "returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction." And again, "Non-violence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals."

    The healing sword was wielded by a musically gifted people. "We did not hesitate to call our movement an army. But it was a special army, with no supplies but its sincerity, no uniform but its determination, no currency but its conscience. It was an army that would move but not maul. It was an army that would sing but not slay...In a sense, the freedom songs are the soul of the movement. They are more than just incantations of clever phrases designed to invigorate a campaign; they are as old as the history of the Negro in America. They are adaptations of the songs the slaves sang...the sorrow songs, the shouts for joy, the battle hymns and the anthems of our movement. I have heard people talk of their beat and rhythm, but we in the movement are so inspired by their words...These songs bind us together, give us courage together, help us march together."

    The Sermon is cast in the form of a church service with a leader who intones the sonorous Biblical texts, and a congregation, complete with its own soloists, which responds melodically, rhythmically and emotionally to his preaching. The role of the leader in the complete musical setting is divided between a speaker, who reads from Dr. King's sermons, and a baritone soloist, who sings the Biblical texts to original music accompanied by string orchestra. The part of the baritone soloist may be assumed by the speaker, in which instance the Biblical texts as well as the quotations from Dr. King's speeches are read by him, the chorus singing in response.


    Recent performances of this work have been put on by Washington University in St. Louis, Newark Symphony Orchestra, and the College of DuPage, among many community organizations and churches.

     

     

  • Beauty, Truth, and Insight through Song: Interview with Juliana Hall

    January 2018 Featured Composer: Juliana Hall

    This month we're featuring American art song composer Juliana Hall (b. 1958). A prolific and highly-regarded composer of vocal music, her songs have been described as “brilliant” (Washington Post), “beguiling” (Times of London), and “the most genuinely moving music of the afternoon” (Boston Globe). The NATS Journal of Singing wrote that “Hall’s text setting is spot on and exquisite”, and Voix des Arts noted that Hall “perpetuates the American Art Song tradition of Beach, Barber, and Bolcom with music of ingenuity and integrity.”

    Juliana Hall

    In addition to performances at prestigious concert venues including the 92nd Street Y, the Library of Congress, the Théâtre du Châtelet, and Wigmore Hall, Hall's songs have been presented at numerous festivals, including the London Festival of American Music, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Ojai Music Festival, and Tanglewood Music Center.

    Art song organizations and ensembles presenting Hall’s music include ÆPEX Contemporary Performance, ANA Trio, Boston Art Song Society, Calliope’s Call, Cantabile Project, Capital Fringe, Casement Fund Song Series (Sparks & Wiry Cries), CHAI Collaborative Ensemble, Contemporary Music Forum, Contemporary Undercurrent of Song Project, Ensemble for These Times, Ensemble Lyrae, Fourth Coast Ensemble, Cincinnati Song Initiative, Denver Art Song Project, Feminine Musique, Lowell Trio, Lynx Project, Lyric Fest, Mallarmé Chamber Players, Mirror Visions Ensemble, Northwest Art Song, One Ounce Opera, Oxford Song Network, Project 142, “re-Sung” Series, Schubert Club, Second Street Sonorities, Songeaters, “Song in the City” Series, The Ensemble of Oregon, Voices of Change, and Zenith.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Special recital appearances include songs from Hall's soprano song cycle “Night Dances” on Dawn Uphaw’s “First Songs” series at the Morgan Library and Museum and a performance of her mezzo soprano song cycle “Letters from Edna” on the 2016 Joy in Singing’s Edward T. Cone Composers Concert at Lincoln Center, both in New York City, as well as a performance of her tenor song cycle “The Holy Sonnets of John Donne” in a Holy Week meditation service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

    Juliana Hall’s art song catalogue was signed by E. C. Schirmer last June.

    Unlike many composers, you specialize in art song. What, for you, is special about writing art songs?

    Art song is so special to me, more than any other genre of music, because it combines the two worlds I most love—the world of poetry and literature, and the world of music—and joins them into a small and concentrated musical form.

    I have composed over 300 art songs and works of vocal chamber music and, although I’ve written larger forms including a cantata, a chamber opera, a few choral anthems, and a handful of instrumental solo and chamber music pieces for family and friends, the world of art song is the world I feel closest to, musically and personally.

    Since art song is very different from other types of composition, is there a special purpose you have in mind as you compose your art songs?

    My strongest desire when composing art songs is to share whatever beauty, truth, or insight a poem or other text may possess, through a musical framework.

    Because music is an art that so directly and so powerfully goes to both the head and the heart, it is the perfect “carrier” for words whose message I wish to share with an audience, and the small scale of art song performance—usually just a single singer with a single pianist—makes that sharing a very direct and personal communication.

    How were you first introduced to music, and what inspired you to pursue composition?

    I first studied piano with my mother, beginning when I was six years old, and I pretty much planned on a career as a professional pianist. However, even as I practiced the Bach, Beethoven, and Schumann pieces that I loved, I always wondered about composing; for some reason, I had a feeling inside that I might be able to write music, as well as play it.

    When I was 13, I composed a piece for our little family church—a setting of the Creation Story from the Book of Genesis in the Bible—for flute, piano, children’s choir, and narrator. Even though it was my first piece of music, writing it felt very natural and it was extremely satisfying to see it come to life.

    Later, when I went to college at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, faculty composer Darrell Handel encouraged me to switch studies from piano to composition after hearing some pieces I had written for a "composition for performers" class. I didn't change paths then, but that encouragement to pursue the writing of my own music planted a seed.

    When did you know you wanted to become a composer?

    Twenty years after I began studying the piano, as a 26-year-old graduate student at the Yale School of Music, I signed up for composition lessons with a visiting composer, Frederic Rzewski, as an elective—just for fun. Around the same time, a friend gave me a book of poetry (Sylvia Plath, I think) and I really felt close to it, so I began reading a lot more poetry. For my composition lessons, then, I tried to join these wonderful newly-discovered words with original music, by composing my first art songs.

    When those first songs were performed on student concerts, my composition teachers there—Frederic, Leon Kirchner, and Martin Bresnick—encouraged me to make composition my primary focus (just as Darrell Handel had done at Cincinnati during my undergraduate years), so I finally took the plunge, and in 1987 my graduate piano performance degree became a graduate composition degree.

    As much as I had enjoyed playing the piano up to that point in my life, it had never felt completely “right” and I almost didn’t realize how important this feeling was, until I began composing art songs. For the first time in my life, I felt like I’d found my true place in the world…it was a huge gift really, to finally have that grounded sense of who I was.

    How did your career as an art song composer begin?

    While at Yale, I sent one of my earliest song cycles—In Reverence, 5 songs on poems by Emily Dickinson—to renowned vocal composer Dominick Argento, who was then teaching at the University of Minnesota. He accepted me as his student, and in the 18 months following Yale that I studied with him, he taught me an awful lot about English-language literature and its use in vocal music.

    While still in my first semester at Minnesota, I received my first commission for a song cycle, Night Dances; this was the first event in building that important bridge between student life and “real life." One of the area’s premier musical organizations, The Schubert Club of Saint Paul, MN, asked me to write a set of songs for a young, up-and-coming singer who had won the Naumburg Award a few years earlier, and who was taking the musical world by storm, soprano Dawn Upshaw.

    A few years later, in 1989, I received a second Schubert Club commission for Winter Windows for another great Metropolitan Opera singer, baritone David Malis.

    In 1989 I was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition.  The Guggenheim was particularly helpful, because first, it was a very public and tangible acknowledgement of my compositional abilities, which was helpful in being taken seriously as a composer, and second, more practically speaking on a daily basis, it gave me a whole year of writing time during which I completed dozens of songs, including Bells and Grass, Lovestars, and Syllables of Velvet, Sentences of Plush.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    What kinds of poems have you set in art songs?

    Poets whose words have found their way into my art songs include W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Brontë, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lewis Carroll, Fanny J. Crosby, E. E. Cummings, Jean de La Fontaine, Walter de la Mare, Emily Dickinson, John Donne, Anne Frank, Thomas Hardy, James Joyce, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Amy Lowell, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Marianne Moore, Amelia Forrester Peterson, Edgar Allan Poe, Christina Rossetti, Carl Sandburg, William Shakespeare, Percy Byssche Shelley, and Sara Teasdale.

    Have you worked with living poets?

    Although I’ve written much less using the works of living poets, one very special recent project, just premiered this past October, was a commission from the art song organization Lynx Project in which composers were offered texts written by high-performing, but non-verbal, autistic young men. The poet whose texts I chose to set, Sameer Dahar, wrote wonderfully evocative poems full of rich and beautiful imagery…perfect for the tenor song cycle Great Camelot.

    Other recent projects I have really enjoyed working on include a couple song cycles with singers who also have significant gifts as writers, including Metropolitan Opera soprano Molly Fillmore, on whose lovely poems I wrote the song cycle called Cameos, and the soprano and librettist Caitlin Vincent, whose text formed the basis of my second song cycle for unaccompanied soprano, Sentiment.

    Another tenor song cycle I’m looking forward to composing this year is a setting of the six poem work, Piano Lessons, by the great American poet Billy Collins , which is set for a Spring 2020 premiere.

    What does the future hold for Juliana Hall?

    I am busier than I’ve ever been before, and have several wonderful things coming up. I’ve already mentioned the Billy Collins piece, but in addition to that, I am also writing a large song cycle for mezzo soprano on the words of Margaret Widdemer, whose beautiful poetry I recently discovered.

    I’ve also got a beautiful Christmas text taken from the Gospel of Luke from the Bible, which will be a piece for countertenor voice to be sung (hopefully) during the next Christmas season, and there’s also a wonderful little set of two poems by E. E. Cummings which I hope to write for a very high coloratura voice type.

    And performances?

    I’ve been very blessed with quite a few recent performances, including concerts in Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, England, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Scotland, as well as across the United States in locations including Albuquerque, Amarillo, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Hartford, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, Princeton, San Antonio, San Diego, Seattle, Syracuse, Tucson, and Washington, DC.

    Upcoming performances include three premieres this month: Roosters, for soprano, mezzo soprano, and piano; In Closer Bonds of Love to Thee, for soprano and piano; and The Poets, for bass voice and piano. I'm also looking forward to the premiere of my first song cycle for unaccompanied soprano, In Spring, in February; the premiere of a new soprano song, I Know a River Wide and Deep, later in the Spring; the premiere of a soprano cycle, How Do I Love Thee?, in September; the premiere of the soprano cycle Cameos during the 2018-2019 concert season; the premiere of my second cycle for unaccompanied soprano, Sentiment in Spring of 2019; and the premiere of my upcoming tenor song cycle Piano Lessons in Spring 2020.

    As yet unscheduled premieres include the new song cycle on the Margaret Widdemer poems, Will You Love Me Still?; my new contralto song cycle, Of That So Sweet Imprisonment; and new songs for high coloratura, Two Birds.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Any other exciting activities coming up for you?

    Summertime has been an exciting time for me. Last summer I received the 2017 Sorel Commission from SongFest for my soprano song cycle When the South Wind Sings.

    This coming summer is no different; I have two wonderful events to which I’m eagerly looking forward:

    The first event is the 2018 Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar, where I have been asked to be this year’s Guest “Spotlight” Composer.  I’m looking forward to working with some extremely talented singers and collaborative pianists preparing for a concert of my songs to take place on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at the Crane School of Music, SUNY, Potsdam, NY.

    The second event is the NATS National Conference, the biannual meeting of members of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, where my songs will be presented in a publisher’s showcase on Sunday, June 24, 2018.  I’m really looking forward to the showcase, but also to meeting as many of the thousand conference attendees as I can, signing scores, and sharing my work as widely as possible.

     

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