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Composers

  • Juliana Hall Song Cycle to be premiered by renowned mezzo Stephanie Blythe

    Post by David Sims

    Renowned mezzo soprano Stephanie Blythe will premiere a new song cycle by composer Juliana Hall on Saturday, January 19, 2019 at the Sparks & Wiry Cries' first songSLAM Festival at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music in New York City.  Complete information about the songSLAM Festival - including links to purchase tickets - is available here.

    The songSLAM Festival is a four-day celebration of new art song, with a "slam" evening (similar to a poetry slam) in which a program of composer-performer teams present new songs, with a winning song declared by audience appreciation, on Thursday, January 17th.  Recitals of new and newly-commissioned works will be presented on Friday, January 18th (celebrating the creations of librettist Mark Campbell with various composers) and on Sunday, January 20th (new songs focusing on the topic #MeToo: Pathways to Healing).

    The Festival's Saturday, January 19th evening event will be a special recital called Expressions of Love: Stephanie Blythe and friends, and will include a new song cycle by composer Scott Gendel and a piece by composer-pianist Alan Louis Smith (performed by soprano Maggie Finnegan and pianist Daniel Overly), with parlour songs rounding out the recital (performed by Ms. Blythe and pianist Alan Louis Smith).

    The other work on the January 19th program is Juliana Hall's first contralto song cycle, Of That So Sweet Imprisonment, a work of seven songs on love poems by James Joyce. Composed by Hall for Ms. Blythe, this work is a celebration of love, about which Juliana Hall writes:

    When I first “met” Stephanie Blythe online a few years ago, I was not just thrilled to be “friends” with this beautiful singer for whom I have so much admiration, I was also surprised that she knew who I was, liked my songs, and wanted me to be a guest at her Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar... a dream that came true last May. So in 2017 I wrote to Stephanie, “I'm going to be sixty soon, and I'd really like a special present for this milestone. Could I write you a song cycle?” Well, again to my surprise, she answered within a split second with a definitive “yes,” adding, “All I ask is that you consider writing the piece for the contralto voice. It is where I live so happily now, and there is just not enough out there for this particular voice type.” In short order I settled on a set of seven poems by James Joyce, love poems that are subtle, rich, and deep. There is a gentle narrative from the first to the last poem, following love (Orpheus perhaps) to the speaker’s desire to find her love, a declaration of wanting to be “imprisoned” by this love, a longing to be in a special place of love, a movement away from being a girl towards becoming a woman, a scene of harp music celebrating love (heaven perhaps), and finally a simple scene of lovers being together forever in a place special to them - all of which promised to elucidate Joyce’s beautiful vision of human love through the exquisite prism of the textures and colors of the contralto voice. This new work, Of That So Sweet Imprisonment, does not excite as a huge orchestral work might, nor does it amuse as a comedic song would, or impress through drama as a romantic opera might. What I hope it succeeds in doing, though, is to allow the intimacy of art song to touch upon perhaps our most profound human experience - that of love - in a way that only art song can: to reach that small, quiet inner voice of truth we come to know when we feel unconditionally loved by another and when we find ourselves able to love another without limit. While Stephanie Blythe certainly has the most amazing ability to produce the excitement, comedy, or drama of other types of musical works, I have heard her sing the most penetrating and powerful pianissimo notes I've probably heard any singer ever produce, and it is that ability to share the intimate, the small, and the personal that makes Stephanie the perfect singer to bring these songs into the world with clarity, purity, and beauty. It is my wish that Of That So Sweet Imprisonment might bring a breath of peace and inner warmth into each listener’s life, and help them to once again feel the pulsating life that love makes possible for each of us.

    Juliana Hall recently appeared as the 2018 Guest Composer at Blythe's Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar. Blythe has complimented Hall's work generously, stating:

    “There is a beautiful alchemy that occurs when composer Juliana Hall meets a poem. Revealing each morsel of poetry through her brilliant tonal, textural, and rhythmic language, her work is immediately recognizable and wonderfully familiar. Singers and audiences alike take delight in her songs. Over the years, many of my young colleagues have brought her work for me to coach in my own song program, Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar, but equally, I have heard her songs in virtually every university in which I have taught master classes over the last decade. Ms. Hall’s songs have a very important endorsement - singers want to sing them. Indeed, they love to sing them, and it is readily understood why. Her choice of text is varied, impressive and speaks to a wide cultural audience. The topics are relevant to today’s artists, and therefore, extraordinarily desirable. It is also incredibly evident that she understands the singing voice and the great art of collaboration with the pianist - there is a level of musical discourse here that demands expertise, and rewards the work with a generous and complete technical, interpretive and emotional experience. It is positively magical.”

  • Stephanie Blythe on Art Song

    Our friends at Sparks & Wiry Cries did this excellent interview with mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe ahead of their songSLAM festival. The festival will feature world premieres by Juliana Hall and Scott Gendel. Watch to find out what this great artist has to say about connecting with an audience, the importance of modern composers, and being on the brink of an art song renaissance.

  • David Conte Performances - Spring 2019

    Thursday, February 14, 7:30pm
    "i thank you God"
    Plano West Senior High School, Kathy Hackett, Conductor
    TMEA Convention, San Antonio
    https://www.tmea.org/conventions/2019/performances/performing-groups/programs

    Saturday, February 23, 7:30pm
    “Madrigals for the Seasons”
    Cappella SF, Ragnar Bohlin, Conductor
    Mission Dolores, San Francisco
    http://www.cappellasf.org

    Saturday, February 23, 5:00pm
    "Aria and Fugue"
    Emil Miland, Cello; Eric Choate, piano
    Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin, San Francisco, CA
    http://www.cappellasf.org

    Monday, February 25, 7:30pm
    Faculty Artist Recital
    Works of David Conte
    San Francisco Conservatory of Music Recital Hall
    https://sfcm.edu/events/david-conte-composition-1

    Wednesday, February 27, 7:30pm
    "Everyone Sang" Four Songs for Baritone and Piano
    Andrew Garland, Baritone; Kelly Kuo, Piano
    Homer Rainey Hall, Jessen Auditorium, University of Texas at Austin
    https://music.utexas.edu/events/3283-when-words-collide-20th-21st-century-american-songs

    Friday, March 1,  7:30pm
    "September Sun" (in memory of those who perished on 9/11)
    West Shore Chorale, John Drotleff, Conductor
    Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Cleveland, OH

    Sunday, March 3rd, 7:30pm
    Berkeley Hillside Club

    Monday, March 4th, 7:30pm
    SF Conservatory Recital Hall
    “Sonata for Clarinet and Piano”
    Left Coast Ensemble
    Jerome Simas, clarinet
    Eric Zivian, piano
    http://www.leftcoastensemble.org/community-events/2019/3/3/bay-area-spotlight

    Saturday, March 10, 7:30pm
    First Presbyterian Church, Livermore, CA
    "Dance" from "Invocation and Dance"
    Valley Concert Chorale
    Daniel Glover, Dominic Pang, pianists
    John Emory Bush, conductor
    http://www.leftcoastensemble.org/community-events/2019/3/3/bay-area-spotlight

    Sunday, March 11, 3:00pm
    Trinity Lutheran Church, Pleasanton, CA
    "Dance" from "Invocation and Dance"
    Valley Concert Chorale
    Daniel Glover, Dominic Pang, pianists
    John Emory Bush, conductor
    http://www.leftcoastensemble.org/community-events/2019/3/3/bay-area-spotlight

    Saturday, March 16th, 8:00pm
    “A Copland Portrait”
    Bay Area Rainbow Symphony; Dawn Harms, conductor
    Wilsey Center - Taube Atrium Auditorium, San Francisco
    https://bars-sf.org/concerts/

    Sunday, March 17th, 3:00pm
    “September Sun"
    The San Francisco Conservatory Chorus & the Calvary Chapel Choir
    Calvary Presbyterian Church, San Francisco
    https://calvarypresbyterian.org/event/passio-chapel-choir-sf-conservatory-chorus/

    Saturday May 18, 8:00pm
    Sunday May 19, 3:00pm
    “Goodbye, My Fancy"
    Golden Gate Men's Chorus, Joseph Piazza, Conductor
    Anders Paulsson, Soprano Saxophone
    Mission Dolores Basilica, San Francisco
    http://www.ggmc.org/#performances

  • Paul Manz - 100 Years of Music

    Paul Manz picture Paul Manz

    2019 is the 100th anniversary of Paul Manz's birth. In honor of the occasion, we're reminding ourselves of the incredible contributions Manz made to church music, and invite you to join in. If you are performing any of Manz's works in 2019, let us know in the comments!

    If you're not familiar with Manz's legacy as a musician, composer, teacher, and worship leader, a great place to start is Scott Hyslop's book, The Journey Was Chosen: The Life and Work of Paul Manz. Along with publication of the book came a Paul Manz Portal, where you can quickly find articles, photos, and programs, among other resources.

    Manz's best-known piece is "E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come." Watch a video with the score below!

     

    To view all of Manz's works with MorningStar, click here.


    Paul Manz long served the church as recitalist, composer, teacher and leader in worship. He was Cantor Emeritus at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saint Luke, Chicago, Illinois; as well as Cantor Emeritus of Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was the director of the newly established Paul Manz Institute of Church Music, and was Professor Emeritus of Church Music at Christ Seminary Seminex at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.

    A Fulbright grant enabled him to study with Flor Peeters in Belgium and Helmut Walcha in Germany. The Belgian government invited him to be the official United States representative in ceremonies honoring Flor Peeters on his 80 th birthday and his 60 th year as titular organist of the Cathedral of Saint Rombaut in Mechelen, Belgium. At that time, Flor Peeters referred to his former student as "my spiritual son."

    Paul Manz concertized extensively in North America. He appeared at the Lincoln Center in New York City, with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall and with the Minnesota Orchestra under the direction of Charles Dutoit, Leonard Slatkin, and Henry Charles Smith. In addition, he played recitals in churches and cathedrals here and abroad. He was in great demand for his hymn festivals, which are his legacy as a church musician. He conducted many organ clinics, participated in liturgical seminars and appeared as lecturer and recitalist at the regional and national conventions of the American Guild of Organists.

    The esteem and respect with which Paul Manz is regarded can be seen in the many honors he has received. He was twice named one of the "Ten Most Influential Lutherans." He served as National Councilor of the American Guild of Organists and is listed as one of the "101 Most Notable Organists of the 20th Century." He was the recipient of many honorary doctorates and awards. Northwestern University, his alma mater, presented him with the prestigious "Alumni Merit Award"; The Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago presented him with the distinguished "Confessor of Christ Award"; The Chicago Bible Society presented him with the "Gutenberg Award"; and the Lutheran Institute of Washington, DC honored him with the first "Wittenberg Arts Award". At a convention of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, his colleagues honored him for his work in the church. A large gathering in Minneapolis, Minnesota held a "Paul Manz Celebration: Honoring the Life of a Church Musician" where substantial gifts were given to the Ruth and Paul Manz Scholarship for Church Musicians.

    Trinity Seminary of Columbus, Ohio bestowed the "Joseph Sittler Award for Theological Leadership" and among his many honorary doctorates is the Doctor of Sacred Music degree from Valparaiso University, Indiana, and most recently, the Doctor of Music degree from St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota.

    His musical compositions are internationally known. His organ works are extensively used in worship services, recitals and in teaching. His choral music is widely used by church and college choirs here and abroad. His motet, "E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come" is regarded as a classic and has been frequently recorded here and abroad. His life and works is the subject of a doctoral dissertation which details his career spanning more than fifty years and analyzes his organ works.

  • Randol Bass - Winter 2018 Performances

    It's that time again! Orchestras and choruses around the country are gearing up for Christmas concerts, and many of them are performing music by composer Randol Bass. Check out the list below to see where Bass' music will be performed this winter!

     

    Bellringers' Holiday

    Cleveland Orchestra

    Missoula Symphony Association

     

    Christmas Flourish

    Case Western Reserve University

    Gay Men's Chorus of South Florida

    Georgia State University

    Kansas City Symphony

    Paducah Symphony Orchestra

    Sequoia Symphony Orchestra

    St. Timothy on the Northshore UMC

     

    Christmas Ornaments

    Empire State Youth Orchestra

    Las Vegas Philharmonic

    Sierra Master Chorale

     

    Fanfare: Joy to the World

    California Baptist University

    Dudley Birder Chorale

    Plano Symphony

    University of Texas

     

    A Feast of Carols

    Catalina Foothills Church

    Choral Society of the Palm Beaches

    Colorado State University

    First United Methodist Church - Baton Rouge, LA

    Harper College

    Indianapolis Symphonic Choir

    North Carolina State University

    Santa Barbara Choral Society

    Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra

     

    Gloria

    Central Maryland Chorale

    Colorado Springs Philharmonic

    Colorado Symphony

    Durham Philharmonic Choir

    DCINY (Carnegie Hall)

    Firelands Symphony Orchestra

    Hershey Symphony Orchestra

    Indiana Wesleyan University

    Las Vegas Philharmonic

    Modesto Symphony Orchestra

    Omaha Symphonic Chorus

    Paducah Symphony Orchestra

    Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

    Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra

    University of Mobile

     

    Glory to God (from A Savior is Born)

    Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra

    San Angelo Symphony Orchestra

     

    I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

    Greenwood Festival Chorale

    SUNY Potsdam

     

    The Night Before Christmas

    Charlotte Symphony Orchestra

    Chicago Symphony Orchestra

    Cleveland Pops Orchestra

    Colorado Springs Philharmonic

    Columbus Symphony Orchestra

    Durham Philharmonic Choir

    Edgewood Symphony Orchestra

    Firelands Symphony Orchestra

    The Florida Orchestra

    Folsom Lake Symphony

    Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra

    Irving Symphony Orchestra

    Las Vegas Philharmonic

    Long Beach Symphony

    Manchester Choral Society

    Mid-Texas Symphony

    North Carolina Symphony

    Roswell Symphony Orchestra

    Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra

    San Diego Symphony Orchestra

    Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra

    Toronto Symphony Orchestra

    University of Lynchburg

    University of Texas

    Utah Symphony

     

    Seasonal Sounds

    Marin Symphony Orchestra

    Dudley Birder Chorale

     

    Sing We Now of Christmas

    Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

    Greater Dallas Youth Orchestras

    Las Vegas Philharmonic

    Modesto Symphony Orchestra

     

    A Symphony of Carols

    Colorado Springs Philharmonic

    Durham Philharmonic Choir

    DCINY (Carnegie Hall)

  • Introducing Three Songs by Ephraim Amu

    By Kofi Agawu

    Between 2002 and 2006, the local currency in Ghana included a 20,000-cedi note with the image of composer Ephraim Amu. These spaces are normally reserved for famous political leaders, generic situations that project the country’s industry and culture, and historic sites. That Dr. Amu shared this company speaks to the very high regard in which he is held. Indeed, Ephraim Amu is probably the best-known cultural icon of twentieth-century Ghana.

    Talk to primary school pupils about the songs they sing at assembly, and they will invariably mention Yɛn ara asase ni (This is our own land). Some of them will refer to it as Ghana’s national anthem; the more discerning will describe it as the unofficial national anthem. Neither designation is correct. The national anthem (originally “Lift high the flag of Ghana,” later “God Bless our homeland Ghana”) was composed in 1957 to English words in a stately, hymn-like and quite un-African idiom by Philip Gbeho, and remains in regular use for official functions and ceremonies. Yɛn ara asase ni, composed in a more indigenous idiom to Twi words, is a patriotic song; it is widely popular because it captures more readily an African musical sensibility. If you ask those school children what they like about it, they will probably say that the song is sweet and that its words fill them with pride.

    Talk to another group of educated Ghanaians about broadly cultural matters, especially those who came of age in the years leading up to the country’s Independence in 1957, and who have had the benefit of either a secondary school or teacher training college education. Dr. Amu’s name is likely to emerge in connection with passionate advocates for African culture, role models for what was once called ‘African personality.’ Some indeed may recall encountering one or two of Amu’s compositions as members of a school choir.

    Until now, Ephraim Amu has been visible mostly as a national figure. This is partly a function of the circumstances in which he worked as a musician, teacher, catechist, and educator. He wrote mostly choral music using texts in Ghanaian languages, and he often wrote for specific choirs and specific occasions. He was not aiming at an anonymous global audience. No condition is permanent, however, as the song writer says, so it is not surprising that Amu’s nationalism is on the verge of yielding to an internationalism. The publication by Galaxy Music Corporation of three of Amu’s most popular songs in a beautiful critical edition made by Professor Felicia Sandler will surely hasten their accessibility to many professional and amateur choirs in the United States. Amu’s unique choral idiom, cultivated under the influence of European colonialism and missionization, yet marked by African rhythms, melodic turns and poetic expression, exudes a fresh, coming-of-age quality that has been celebrated in his native Ghana and that will surely appeal to musicians around the globe.

    Amu was an imaginative poet-composer, and many who learn his songs are immediately drawn into an enticing world of memorable, word-borne melody, exhilarating rhythms, and an undercurrent of natural harmony, tweaked in unexpected ways, sometimes under the influence of a species of parallelism common in indigenous music, sometimes in deference to the four-part harmony that the composer encountered in Protestant hymns and associated idioms. Writing in two Ghanaian languages, Ewe and Twi, Amu sought to capture pertinent thoughts and aspirations of his community and to convey them in pithy language. His best-known songs are mainly in Twi, the most widely-spoken language in Ghana. As a non-native speaker, Amu learned an idiomatic Twi that took him to the heart of indigenous expression. His song texts are peppered with vivid images, wise sayings, and challenges to self- and communal improvement.

    Before Christian missionaries arrived in Amu’s hometown of Peki in the 1840s, no one sang using the popular SATB arrangement that practically every Western choir takes for granted. No one drew on Biblical sources for song texts, and no one composed choral music on paper for performance by trained choirs. All of that changed three or so generations later, thanks to Amu, who had grown up with deep influences of indigenous cultural practice (his father was a drummer), on the one hand, and with exposure to and curiosity about selected idioms of eighteenth-century European tonal music, on the other. Amu wrote a series of choral works for various occasions, each one cementing an idea, an aspiration, an admonition. He was in that sense a pioneer and, in retrospect, a visionary. Amu’s practices eventually gelled into a model of choral composition that became hugely successful—satisfying for performers and audiences alike, and available for imitation by budding composers. Indeed, it is hard to think of a single successful composer of choral music in Ghana who has not in some measure been influenced by Amu. Today, one can hear Amu’s music performed in schools, churches, community and work-place choirs, or in arrangements for brass bands.

    The three song settings published by Galaxy are among Amu favorites, and they are likely to become favorites for American performers too, once they master Amu’s individual idiom. Yɛn ara asase ni is a patriotic song composed in 1929. It was originally written to Ewe words and then fitted with Twi words two years later. Every schooled Ghanaian knows this song, even if they do not have full control over the words of subsequent stanzas. The song’s rhythms are emphatic, the melody is well suited to the speech tones—no mean achievement given that the original was in Ewe—and the refrain is memorable because it incorporates a responsorial element found in much African traditional music. Amu maintains a diatonic base but occasionally incorporates the flattened-seventh degree of the scale in an endearing way. American singers may need the assistance of a Twi-speaking coach to help render the Twi words accurately, and they may have to time-travel to 1930s West Africa to begin to glimpse the joint influences of Empire, Christian missions and collective hopes for self-determination.

    In Asɛm yi di ka (This talk has got to be spoken), composed in 1944, the emphasis is on the spoken word. Amu’s phraseology is particularly charming here. Subphrases end on relatively short notes followed by silences, giving the song a certain enunciatory character and thus enhancing its communicative value. The spoken word, complete with the intrinsic musical baggage it carries from tone languages, lies at the root of Amu’s expression, and singers will have the opportunity, here and elsewhere, to experience that magnificent fusion of word and tone that has made so many of Amu’s songs memorable to generations of Ghanaians.

    Adawura bɔme (I am the bell), composed in 1943, is a lively and satisfying exercise in polyrhythm. While polyrhythm is often associated in Africa with instrumental ensemble music, it is produced here by voices. At the core is a three-against two feel, the sine qua non of African rhythm, and a constant presence in Amu’s scores. Speaking these distinct, layered rhythms will give singers a feel for some of the energy that comes from this brand of simultaneous doing.

    Ephraim Amu died in 1995 at the age of 95. Already a legend in his lifetime, he has grown in stature posthumously. Scholars have become more keenly aware of the size and diversity of his output. Students of religion and culture have also become aware of Amu’s work as a theologian, nationalist and patriot. We owe an incalculable debt to Professor Sandler, who has undertaken the mammoth task of making Amu’s music available to a larger public in an authoritative critical edition for which these three songs provide a taste. This edition will do justice—for the first time—to the composer’s vision and achievement. May all who engage these gems of African choral music draw satisfaction from the close and cosy harmonies, the melodic inflexions, the vital rhythms, and the inspiring verbal messages, and may Amu’s music find audiences well beyond the ones that he imagined in 1931.

     


    Kofi Agawu was born in Ghana, where he received his initial education before studying composition and analysis in the UK and musicology in the US. He has taught at Haverford College, King’s College London, Cornell, Yale and Harvard; held visiting positions at the University of Hong Kong, Indiana University, University of Toronto, the University of Pavia, Cremona, and Oxford University; and lectured at numerous universities and conferences around the world. In 2012-13, he was appointed George Eastman Visiting Professor at Oxford University, becoming only the second music scholar to have held that position since its endowment in 1930. He has served on the editorial boards of leading journals in musicology, music theory, African music and ethnomusicology, and on several fellowship panels.

    Agawu’s work is widely discussed and frequently cited for its interrogative quality. Tony Lewis remarks on Agawu’s role in “recasting African music as a musicological rather than ethnomusicological topic”; Veit Erlmann wrote that Representing African Music (2003) is “without any doubt the most powerful intervention in African musicology in a decade or more . . . one of the most edgy and stylish pieces of writing on the politics of culture in postcolonial Africa to have appeared of late”; and Music as Discourse (2008) elicited the following from Raymond Monelle: “The painstaking clarity of the analyses will surely be imitated by a generation of bright students . . . radical and challenging . . . easy to absorb yet infinitely sophisticated . . . elegant and rich . . . needs to be lived with and digested.”

    Agawu’s current research includes essays on rhythm and iconicity in African music, and further studies in topic theory.

  • Tom Keesecker Winter 2018 Performances

    Tom Keesecker

    Tom Keesecker will be performing music from his Advent and Christmas piano collections in an hour-long program of piano music, song, and poetry at these churches in November and December.

    - Sunday, 11/18, Saint Martin’s Lutheran, Annapolis, MD, 3pm
    - Monday, 11/26, St Mary Magdalen Mission, Bel Air, MD, 7 pm
    - Wednesday, 11/28, The Village at Orchid Ridge Winchester, VA, 2 pm
    - Wednesday, 11/28, Grace Lutheran, Winchester, VA, 6:30 pm
    - Sunday, 12/2, Abiding Presence Lutheran, Ewing Township, NJ, 6 pm
    - Monday, 12/3, St Paul’s Lutheran, Glenside, PA, 7:30 pm
    - Wednesday, 12/5, Good Shepherd Lutheran, Bel Air, MD, 6:45 service
    - Sunday, 12/9, Reformation Lutheran, Milford, DE, 7 pm
    - Monday 12/10, Epiphany Lutheran, Richmond, VA, 7 pm
    - Tuesday, 12/11, Wycliffe Presbyterian, Virginia Beach, VA, Noon
    - Tuesday, 12/11, Bayside Presbyterian, Virginia Beach, 7 pm
    - Wednesday, 12/12, St Michael Lutheran, Virginia Beach, VA, 6:45  pm

  • Juliana Hall Performances - 2018/2019 Season

    Juliana Hall:  A Season of Premieres

    How Do I Love Thee?
    world premiere
    Saturday, September 29, 2018 – 7:30 PM
    Contemporary Undercurrent of Song Project (CUSP)
    All Saint’s Church
    16 All Saint’s Road
    Princeton, NJ
    Soprano Martha Guth and pianist Erika Switzer present the world premiere of How Do I Love Thee? - 5 songs on sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

    O Mistress Mine
    west coast premiere
    Saturday, October 6, 2018 – 8:00 PM
    Winifred Smith Hall
    Claire Trevor School of the Arts
    University of California – Irvine
    Countertenor Darryl Taylor and pianist Juliana Hall present the west coast premiere of O Mistress Mine - 12 songs on texts from plays by William Shakespeare.

    Cameos
    world premiere
    Thursday, October 18, 2018 – 8:00 PM
    CollabFest 2018
    University of North Texas
    College of Music
    415 Avenue C
    Denton, TX
    Soprano Molly Fillmore and pianist Elvia Puccinelli present the world premiere of Cameos - 6 songs on poems by Molly Fillmore.

    And It Came To Pass
    world premiere
    Wednesday, December 12, 2018 – 7:00 PM
    “A Contemporary Christmas from Britten”
    Ware Episcopal Church
    7825 John Clayton Memorial Highway
    Gloucester, VA
    Countertenor Charles Humphries and pianist Juliana Hall present the world premiere of And It Came To Pass - a canticle on the Story of the Nativity from the Biblical Gospel of Luke.

    Of That So Sweet Imprisonment
    world premiere
    Saturday, January 19, 2019
    Sparks & Wiry Cries
    songSLAM Festival III
    DiMenna Center for Classical Music
    450 West 37th Street
    New York, NY
    Mezzo soprano Stephanie Blythe and pianist Alan Smith present the world premiere of Of That So Sweet Imprisonment - 7 songs on poems by James Joyce.

    Through the Guarded Gate
    world premiere
    Friday, March 8, 2019
    Seattle Art Song Society
    “Womxn’s Voices”
    Ballard First Lutheran Church
    2006 Northwest 65th Street
    Seattle, WA
    Mezzo soprano Clara Osowski and pianist Juliana Hall present the world premiere of Through the Guarded Gate – 5 songs on poems by Margaret Widdemer.

    Sentiment
    world premiere
    Saturday, April 27, 2019 – 7:30 PM
    Calliope’s Call
    “Cross Connections: Juliana Hall”
    Old West Church
    131 Cambridge Street
    Boston, MA
    Soprano Laura Strickling presents the world premiere of Sentiment – a monodrama for solo unaccompanied soprano on texts by Caitlin Vincent.

    The New Colossus
    world premiere
    Date & Time TBA
    Montreal, Canada
    Bass baritone Simon Chalifoux presents the world premiere of The New Colossus – a setting of the poem by Emma Lazarus.

  • David Conte Performances - Fall 2018/Winter 2019

    Sunday, October 14th, 2018, 7PM

    “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”

    Joshua Trio:  Emil Miland, cello; Meredith Clark, harp; Ann Moss, soprano

    Swedenborgian Church of San Francisco

    http://www.annmosssoprano.com/calendar/2018/10/14/the-joshua-trio

     

    Thursday, October 18th, 2018, 7:30PM

    “In Praise of Music”

    San Francisco Girls’ Chorus; Valerie Sainte-Agathe, conductor

    Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

    https://www.sfgirlschorus.org/performances/anamericaninspiration

     

    Saturday, November 10th, 2018, 11AM

    ‘Soliloquy”

    David Higgs, organ

    Walter Holtkamp, Jr. Memorial Concert

    Gartner Auditorium, Cleveland Museum of Art

    http://obits.cleveland.com/obituaries/cleveland/obituary.aspx?n=walter-h-holtkamp&pid=190140713&fhid=2995

     

    Fri-Sun, November 30th, December 1st, December 2nd, 2018, 8PM

    Solo Opera

    “The Gift of the Magi”

    an opera in one act

    Lesher Center for the Arts; Walnut Creek, CA

    https://lesherartscenter.showare.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=1042

     

    Thursday, December 6th, 2018, 10AM

    “The Gift of the Magi”

    an opera in one act

    Viva La Musica Opera Company

    Chandler Center for the Arts; Randolph, VT

     

    Sunday, December 9th, 2018; 7:30

    St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Oakland

    Saturday, December 16th, 2018, 4PM

    Calvary Presbyterian Church, San Francisco

    “Two Winter Scenes” for SSAA Chorus, Cello, and Piano (World Premiere)

    Emil Miland, Cello; Young Women’s Choral Projects; Susan McMane, conductor

    https://www.ywcp.org/concerts/

     

    Saturday, January 19th, 2019

    “Sinfonietta for Eleven Instruments” (New York premiere)

    Sinfonietta of Riverdale; Mark Mandarano, conductor

    Christ Church Riverdale; Bronx, NY

    https://sinfoniettanyc.org

     

    Monday, February 25th, 2019

    FACULTY ARTIST RECITAL

    Works of David Conte

    SFCM Concert Hall

    https://sfcm.edu/events/david-conte-composition-1

     

    Friday, March 1st, 2019, 7:30PM

    “September Sun” (in memory of those who perished on 9/11)

    West Shore Chorale; John Drotleff, conductor

    Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Cleveland, OH

    https://sfcm.edu/events/david-conte-composition-1

     

    Sunday, March 3rd, 2019, 7:30PM

    Berkeley Hillside Club

    Monday, March 4th, 2019, 7:30PM

    SF Conservatory Recital Hall

    “Sonata for Clarinet and Piano”

    Left Coast Ensemble

    Jerome Simas, clarinet

    Eric Zivian, piano

    http://www.leftcoastensemble.org/community-events/2019/3/3/bay-area-spotlight

     

    Saturday, March 16th, 2019, 8PM

    “A Copland Portrait”

    Bay Area Rainbow Symphony; Dawn Harms, conductor

    Wilsey Center - Taube Atrium Auditorium, San Francisco

    https://bars-sf.org/concerts/

     

  • Responsorial Psalm Singing with the Five Graces Psalter, Part 2

    The Five Graces Psalter by Luke Mayernick The Five Graces Psalter

    Guest post by Kelly Dobbs-Mickus

    The new volume of Responsorial Psalms for the 3-year Lectionary by Luke Mayernik is receiving rave reviews from customers as an excellent resource for psalmody. This second post continues to explore the practice of responsorial psalm singing in the context of Roman Catholic liturgy using The Five Graces Psalter for reference. We hope that these reflections will be helpful to cantors and accompanists, no matter where they are on their liturgical music journeys.

    The first part of this post considered the liturgical role of the cantor as psalmist and then moved to the art of singing and accompanying psalm refrains. This second part will focus on the verses and psalm tones. Our context is a “regular” parish setting, but we acknowledge that all worship situations are not identical.

    As we discussed in part one, the psalmist’s role for the refrain is primarily about communicating the words and modeling how the assembly will sing the response. The verses are a much more complicated topic, and this post can really only scratch the surface. Because of that, we will concentrate on the most important points for psalmists and sprinkle in some information for accompanists along the way.

    The psalmist sets the emotional tone of the psalm, and should possess an understanding of this particular part of the story of salvation and how it relates to the other Scripture readings. An excellent resource for psalm spirituality is Sr. Kathleen Harmon’s book Becoming the Psalms: A Spirituality of Singing and Praying the Psalms. Preparation of the psalm must not be solely an exterior one; it is the psalmist’s privilege and responsibility to pray the psalms.

    Because psalm tones are unmetered, they allow for much freedom of expression. The psalm tones in The Five Graces Psalter are particularly expressive—they are melodic and harmonically fresh. (Listen to some samples here.) The downside of unmetered music is that it can be more difficult to interpret, due in part to how it looks on the page. How do we get past the notation to create musical prayer?

    The best place to start is with the words of the psalm verses. Read them aloud and study them apart from the music. Memorize them if you can. Here is part of the psalm for Immaculate Conception, Psalm 98:1–3ab:

    O sing a new song to the LORD,
    for he has worked wonders.
    His right hand and his holy arm
    have brought salvation.

    The LORD has made known his salvation,
    has shown his deliverance to the nations.
    He has remembered his merciful love
    and his truth for the house of Israel.

    Notice the natural stresses of the words, the punctuation, and the sequence of ideas. Make note of the emotional tone and strive to reflect it in your singing. Internalizing the psalm in this way is crucial for being able to proclaim it, and the bonus is that it will make the work of interpreting the psalm in song easier.

    The next step is to put the words together with the music. First, let’s define two helpful terms:

    1. Reciting notes are notes that have multiple syllables under them. It is important to sing the words/syllables under reciting notes with their proper stresses, and not plow through them in a robotic or quick fashion simply because the pitch doesn’t change.
    2. Cadential notes lead into the cadence of each phrase. It is important to observe proper stresses for these notes as well, keeping in mind that, although the note is changing, the syllable may be an unstressed one. (The two sets of brackets under the second cadential note indicate that psalmists and accompanists skip those notes/chords.)
    All examples: Verses from The Revised Grail Psalms, Copyright © 2010, Conception Abbey/The Grail, admin. by GIA Publications, Inc. Setting Copyright © 2017 Birnamwood Publications (ASCAP), A division of MorningStar Music Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted for educational use only.

    Here is the first line of Verse 1, notated first showing a poor interpretation, and second showing a good interpretation.

    These two brief examples lend insight into the many variables that exist when interpreting each phrase of a psalm, and how much preparation on the part of the psalmist is needed to communicate the psalm well to the assembly. Go back to the first example and try singing Verses 2 and 3, making sure not to emphasize unaccented syllables, speed through syllables under reciting notes, or unduly lengthen cadential notes.

    There are different types of tones within Mayenik’s Five Graces Psalter. Each phrase of the tone just discussed has a reciting tone and then a cadence with multiple chords. In that kind of tone, it is easy to mis-accent the cadential notes because, after singing several syllables on one pitch, it is natural to emphasize the changing pitch.

    Here is an example of a different kind of tone, from the First Sunday of Advent C.

    This tone is less complicated, because each phrase has a second reciting note rather than multiple cadential notes. This means fewer opportunities for mis-accenting syllables. However, it is still important to find the word accents within the reciting notes, and the fact that there are two reciting notes means that there are fewer syllables under each, which has its own issues. For example, how do you treat a single syllable under a reciting tone, such as “Teach” in the second phrase of Verse 1? My vote would be to lengthen that note a bit, but you and your accompanist might agree on a different approach.

    Two other features of this tone are 1) a repeated phrase at the end of the first verse, indicated by brackets, and 2) an optional cue note on the penultimate chord of each verse. (Cue notes are also included in the first example.) Cues indicate optional notes that a cantor or choir might use for variation on one or more verses. The introduction to the psalter has more information on cue notes, especially for use with choirs.

    There is a third kind of tone that is a combination of the two already discussed. Look at the third and fourth phrases of Psalm 51 for Ash Wednesday and you will find both a second reciting tone and cadential notes. Try singing through those phrases for an idea of the interpretation issues involved.

    Now that we have talked about reciting and cadential notes and natural word accents, let’s move to breathing. There is no single correct method for when to breathe. The easiest way to talk about breathing is to link it to punctuation. There is little argument for breathing at periods, colons, or semi-colons. Keep in mind that taking a breath usually implies a lengthening of the syllable that precedes the breath.

    It is often appropriate to breathe at a comma, but not always. I recently heard this good tip: When there are two commas close to each other, breathe/break at one, not both. In the first phrase of Verse 1 above, breathing both before and after “O God” feels choppy. However, there is also a way to use a break in the sound, not an actual breath, for a smaller separation. Another option is to lengthen the syllable that precedes the comma, even if you don’t breathe or break at the comma.

    The Ash Wednesday example has unusually long phrases in the first two lines which require attention. Breathing after “God” in the first line and after “compassion” in the second line will be a necessity for many psalmists. But even if a singer didn’t need to breathe there, doing so will improve the assembly’s understanding of the text. To underscore the breaths, the accompanist might repeat the chord, or perhaps tie the melody note and repeat the other notes.

    A less obvious practice in singing psalm verses concerns connecting phrases by avoiding breaths between them. It can be appropriate to do this when the two phrases of text have no separating punctuation or when a connection of the meaning is otherwise implied. In the Psalm 51 example, look at phrases 3 and 4 of Verse 4. The psalmist could breathe after “Lord,” and then connect “lips” with “and,” and the accompanist could underscore this by connecting the chords.

    It should be obvious that if the accompanist and psalmist do not rehearse and agree on the details of breathing, the interpretation will suffer. When these points regarding breathing are understood by the accompanist, s/he will be free to underscore the interpretation in other ways: the volume/voicing of the accompaniment, the registration/octave of the accompaniment, articulation, alternate harmonizations, etc. In addition to those factors, the accompanist and psalmist should decide how to begin the phrases of each verse—there is some freedom here. For example, the accompanist could play the first chord of each verse before the psalmist enters, but could begin the following phrases with the psalmist. The accompanist’s role during the verses is to creatively support the psalmist without calling attention to the accompaniment. When the refrain comes around, the accompanist becomes the leader again.

    These are but a few of the many nuances involved in singing psalm tones. The previous emphasis placed on internalizing the text cannot be overstated; without this personal connection to the psalm itself, the details that should enable its prayerful expression will instead get in the way. Even experienced psalmists should continually ask themselves how well they are interpreting, communicating, and praying the psalm—how well they are fulfilling their ministry.

    Visit our website for more information on The Five Graces Psalter, especially the options for both print and downloadable versions, and the sample recordings.

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