Music Amid Catastrophe

The deeply frightening election nightmare that has descended leaves little room to talk about artistic matters. And yet, I feel I would be remiss if I did not express my thanks for the recent performances of my music in the past several days.

Cantori New York and the French ensemble Musicatreize gave two vivid performances of my Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus in New York City this past weekend. The combined choirs mastered the intricate layering of the piece, with its settings of both the Latin Ordinary of the Mass and Denise Levertov poems that reflect on the liturgical texts. I felt the singers had internalized the gestures of the piece and projected them to the listeners with authority and nuance.

Overlapping with the Cantori concerts were performances of my Dark the Star with Baritone Tom Meglioranza and the New York New Music Ensemble  This was an astonishing performance; Tom had memorized the piece, a 20-minute work that sets Rilke, Susan Stewart, and a verse from the psalms. Beauty of sound, precision, powerful affect – Tom’s singing had it all. The instrumentalists – Jean Kopperud, clarinet; Stephen Gosling, piano; Chris Finckel, cello; and Daniel Druckman, percussion, with conductor Eduardo Leandro – were no less eloquent.

Here are YouTube links for the pieces: the Mass as performed by The Crossing and Dark the Star with William Sharp and the 21st Century Consort, Christopher Kendall conductor.

Although I was in New York and could not attend, I was happy to learn that mezzo Kristin Gornstein performed one of my Three Folk Hymns this past Sunday as part of her recital at St. Thomas Church in Whitemarsh, not far outside Philadelphia. Her pianist was Derrick Goff. Kristin was very impressive when I heard her give the premiere of Steve Mackey’s Madrigal for voice and percussion at Tanglewood in 2015, and I am delighted she has taken up my music.

In addition to these performances, I want to report that pianist Youmee Kim has recorded my Pure Contraption, Absolute Gift for Centaur Records as part of an album of American piano music. Youmee was a member of the consortium that commissioned the piece, and it is wonderful to have this elegantly performed document of that project. I am not yet finding the album online; Centaur advises checking Arkiv Music or HB Direct for its products, and I expect the disc will be available soon.

 

Upcoming this season in Athens, Tallahassee, and Philadelphia

I want to call your attention to a couple of items recently added to the performances page:

Youmee Kim, a member of the piano faculty at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, was part of the consortium that commissioned my Pure Contraption, Absolute Gift. She will play the piece in Glidden Hall on the OU campus this coming September 27. I’ve written about the piece here.

– I first met soprano Mary Mackenzie at the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival several years ago when she performed my Three Sacred Songs, and she has since performed my music a number of times. Mary will include that same set of arrangements of chant melodies (Jesu Dulcis Memoria, and Christus Factus Est) and a carol (O Fillii et Filliae) on a program with pianist Heidi Louise Williams at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL, on November 20. The Three Sacred Songs were later orchestrated for chamber ensemble, with another arrangement added, to make the Four Sacred Songs, which are included on the Bridge Sacred Songs CD. Mary and Heidi are planning a CD that will include several pieces of mine, including the big cycle Holy the Firm, the individual songs Shadow Memory, and Waltzing the Spheres, plus an arrangement of How Can I Keep From Singin’?

Gary White will lead the Philadelphia Sinfonia in my Variations on a Hymn Tune at the Temple Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia, PA, next January 24. I wrote the piece for the Council Rock school district in Bucks County, PA, basing it on a 19th century hymn tune “Ebenezer”, written by Welsh composer Thomas J. Williams. Although I came to know the tune with the text “Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow”, my music does not reflect that lugubrious title!

Ohio Contraption

I’m happy to report that Youmee Kim, one of the commissioners of my Pure Contraption, Absolute Gift, will be playing the piece at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, on February 3 of next year. I’ll be attending the concert and will meet with the composition students earlier that day.

UPDATE: I heard from Youmee on December 30 that she has to postpone her performance of Contraption till this coming September, so my visit will be delayed as well.