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Monthly Archives: September 2017

  • Brian Thorsett performs David Conte

    David Conte's Elegy for Matthew will be performed by tenor Brian Thorsett on Saturday, October 7. The performance is part of the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin's Candelight Concert SeriesElegy for Matthew was commissioned in memory of Matthew Shepard by James Geiger for the New York City Gay Men's Chorus, Barry Oliver, conductor. The work received its premiere performance on June 17th, 1999 at Carnegie Hall, New York City.

    Click here to learn more.

    Brian Thorsett Brian Thorsett

    Hailed as “a strikingly gifted tenor, with a deeply moving, unblemished voice” (, Brian Thorsett is excelling in opera, oratorio and recital across the world. Since taking to the operatic stage, he has been seen and heard in over 100 diverse operatic roles, ranging from Monteverdi to Britten, back to Rameau and ahead again to works composed specifically for his talents. He is a graduate of San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, Glimmerglass Opera’s Young American Artist program, American Bach Soloists’ Academy, the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme at Aldeburgh, England and spent two summers at the Music Academy of the West. Brian is currently Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech and previously served on faculty at Santa Clara University and University of California at Berkeley.


  • Kareem Roustom: October Premieres - Berlin, Portland, Canada

    Kareem RoustomKareem Roustom's Aleppo Songs continues to receive world-wide attention, boasting three premieres this year alone. Originally scored for solo piano, the piece celebrates what Aleppo was known for, before the uprising of 2011 led the city to war. The composer writes, "To speak today of the richness of the arts and culture in Aleppo is to speak in the past tense. After the non-violent uprising of 2011 slid into a devastating war, nothing in Aleppo remains the same. Aleppo was a city known for many things… its wonderful cuisine, its seven miles of covered markets, the warmth of its people… and Aleppo was also known for its music.  In writing this orchestral arrangement of Aleppo Songs, I hope to share some of Aleppo’s musical treasures in a new setting; one that hopefully complements the richness of this tradition but also avoids ‘orientalist’ clichés."

    October 3: Berlin

    Aleppo Songs for orchestra will be performed by the Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra and Berlin-area musicians at the Konzertsaal der Universität der Künste.

    The Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra (SEPO) is the first symphony orchestra of Syrian professional and academic musicians living in European Union countries. The orchestra began in Germany in September 2015 as an effort to unify Syrian musicians together despite ideological differences. SEPO also began in an effort to save Syrian music from destruction. To unite, the ensemble banded together to make beautiful music. SEPO performs the symphonic works by the Syrian composers in addition to traditional classical music.

    October 9: Portland, OR

    The ensemble Fear No Music will give the West Coast premiere of Aleppo Songs for piano solo. Pianist Monica Ohuchi performed the piece in a concert celebrating recent music of artists working in the Middle East as well as the diaspora of immigrants active today in the United States.

    A sample of the arrangement for piano:

    October 12: Brott Music Festival, Canada

    The National Academy Orchestra String Concert gave the Canadian premiere at the renowned Brott Music Festival as part of Brott's Multicultural Festival, celebrating the "different cultures and people that make this City such a wonderful place to live."

    Now in its 30th season, the Brott Music Festival is the largest non-profit orchestral music festival in Canada, and the only festival with a full-time, professional orchestra-in-residence. The festival is renowned for its extremely high artistic standard, world class soloists, its exuberant young orchestra and its eclectic mix of orchestral, chamber, jazz, pops, and education concerts at various venues across Southern Ontario.

  • Soprano Renee Calvo performs Juliana Hall and Gwyneth Walker

    Soprano Renee Calvo presents a voice recital of poetry set to music on October 1, 2017 at the University of San Diego. The first half of the recital features music by Wolf, Honneger, and Obradors sung in Spanish, French, and German. The second half includes selection from Night Dances by Juliana Hall and a work by Gwyneth Walker, among other American women composers such as Amy Beach, Rebecca Clarke, and Lori Laitman. Calvo will be joined by collaborative pianist, Gabriel Arregui.

    Click here to learn more.

    Renee Calvo is a vocalist, accompanist, and educator currently living in San Diego, CA. As a vocalist, she has had extensive experience singing in jazz venues, recital halls, U.S. churches and universities, and cathedrals in Europe. She has won many vocal competitions in recent years including the San Diego Choral Club, National Association Teachers of Singing San Diego Chapter, H.B. Goodlin Scholarship Competition, and has also been a San Diego Musical Merit Foundation finalist. Currently she is on the board of San Diego Chapter of National Association Teachers of Singing, soprano soloist at First Presbyterian of San Diego, and maintains teaching studios located in Allied Gardens, College Area, and El Cajon. She also sings part time with the Downbeat Big Band.


  • Alistair Coleman named Young Composer-in-Residence with National Philharmonic

    The National Philharmonic named Alistair Coleman the Young Composer-in-Residence for the orchestra’s 2017-18 season. The National Philharmonic commissioned and performed Coleman's Of Radiance and Light in November 2016. As part of his residency, another original work will be premiered in April 2018.

    In an interview with the National Philharmonic, Coleman recalled his first experience watching the orchestra perform: "I attended a concert with my classmates and over 1500 other elementary schoolers from Montgomery County. I vividly remember climbing the long staircase to our seats on the second tier, and looking down at the beautiful hall and orchestra below. Little did I know that 10 years later, members of this ensemble would premier music I composed. With the guidance and trust of the nurturing artistic leadership, administration, and Board of Directors, NP has played a vital role in curating my journey toward becoming a professional musician."


    Coleman’s music has been programmed broadly, including performances by the Atlantic Music Festival Orchestra and Contemporary Ensemble, Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra, Houston Brass Band, Boston University Marsh Chapel Choir, Takoma String Ensemble, Cathedral Choral Society, and National Symphony Orchestra Youth Fellows.

    With three published works, Coleman is the youngest composer ever published by E. C. Schirmer Music Company in its nearly one-hundred-year history. He is a winner of the American Composers Forum Next Notes Competition, a 2017 National Young Arts winner, the 2016 “Audience Choice Award” winner from Symphony Number One, winner of the 2013 NAfME Young Composers Competition, and a two-time winner of the Maryland State Young Composers Competition. He has received recognition in the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award.

    Coleman has studied composition at the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, Atlantic Music Festival, Curtis Young Artists Summer Program, Oberlin Summer Composition Workshop, and the New York Summer Music Festival. His has studied with Richard Danielpour and David Ludwig, faculty members at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Alistair currently studies with Robert Beaser at Juilliard.

    Source: National Philharmonic at Strathmore

  • Interview with Keyboard Composer of the Month: Robert J. Powell

    Robert Powell

    Robert J. Powell (b. 1932) spent his career serving churches across the Southern and Eastern United States regions, and currently serves as organist at Trinity Methodist Church in Greenville, SC. He earned his Bachelor of Music in Organ and Composition from Louisiana State University and his Master of Sacred Music from Union Theological Seminary School of Sacred Music, New York. Powell also holds Certificates of Fellow (FAGO) and Choirmaster (ChM) from the American Guild of Organists. Mr. Powell has approximately 300 works in print for choral, solo, organ, handbells, and instrumental ensembles in major American and English church music publishers.

    1. How did you get involved with music?

    In my rural Mississippi hometown, the first music I heard was gospel hymns and the original Delta Blues. My grandmother played piano pieces like The Shepherdess' Dream and Fifth Nocturne by J. Laybach (I wondered about the other four). Organ lessons consisted of bi-weekly sessions of one-hour organ study and another two hours of composition lessons. By the end of high school, I had written a march, complete with the "dogfight" followed by the last strain.

    The first SATB choir I heard was the LSU Concert Choir. At LSU, I harmonized Bach chorales, played on every orchestral instrument, and played clarinet in the band. The US Army sent me to Japan where I became organist/choir director of the chapel; singers were Japanese women and American soldiers. At the Union Seminary School of Sacred Music, I was assigned to be organist/choir director of a small church which had two anthems in their library - Wallingford Rieger's Easter Passacaglia in 16 parts and See ye the Lord by J. Varley Roberts. I wrote a lot of music for my small choir then!

    I was the Assistant Organist at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York (2years), organist/choir director at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Meridian, MS (6 years), and held the same position at St. Paul's School, Concord, NH (3 years), and Christ Church Episcopal, Greenville, SC (34 years); I am now organist at Trinity United Methodist Church in Greenville, SC (13 years).

    2. Is there a method you use to find inspiration for new music? What's your process for writing music?

    Sometimes a text will suggest a motive or tune. The most difficult thing is to find some motive or tune; after this, the rest can be more easily completed.

    3. Your catalog features a variety of works for organ and choirs. Do you use different techniques when preparing to compose for different genres?

    I try to think how it will sound when the choir sings with the organ or other instruments. I am aware of the ranges of the instruments - and this includes the organ. I use the upper and lower ranges of the organ and do not always write music in the middle of the keyboard.

    4. What do you enjoy most and least about working as a composer?

    I most enjoy thinking about how to deal with the initial motive or thought. I also enjoy the physical activity of placing the music first on paper, then on the computer's music program. All the music I write is composed at the piano or organ.

    I least enjoy having to re-write parts of the piece with which I am unhappy.

    5. What advice would you give to aspiring church composers?

    These things work for me; they may not be useful to everyone who writes music:

    Write fast, correct later. Invent a short-hand way of putting the music on paper. Do not make changes when correcting that may destroy the original thought. Your style should remain consistent throughout the piece - not a mixture of Brahms, Messiaen, Elgar, or others, including yourself. Morning works best for me.

    It is okay to work on more than one composition at one time; in this instance, however, focus strongly on one of the two or three others. Ask a choir, soloist, or organist to sing or play your pieces for you. Write as much of the piece as you can in one session.

    6. What can you be found doing when you’re not writing new music?

    I like to swim at the local YMCA and walk in a nearby park. My wife and I participate in many activities; attend theater presentations, orchestra and organ concerts, and take short vacations away from it all.

    7. Is there any recent or upcoming news you’d like to share?

    I am looking forward to hearing a short piece of mine for the three organs in Christ Church. There is a large pipe organ in the balcony, a sizable electronic near the altar, and a small tracker in a side chapel.

    If someone should ask me, "What do you do?" I would reply that I write tunes and play hymns. And I would have it no other way!

    Click here to learn more about Robert J. Powell.
  • Recent David Conte performances: New Zealand premiere, California, & Indiana

    Recent performances across the globe included David Conte's choral, vocal, and orchestral repertoire.

    • August 13, 2017: Inspirare, Wellington, New Zealand's professional choir, premiered Invocation and Dance by Conte under the direction of Mark Stamper. Based on a text drawn from Walt Whitman's "When Lilacs Last at the Dooryard Bloom'd," Invocation and Dance is a hymn to nature and the place of death within the cycle of life on earth. 
      Mark Stamper Mark Stamper
    • August 17, 2017: Soprano Natalie Mann and pianist Bridget Hough performed Conte's Sexton Songs at St. Bede's Episcopal Church, Mar Vista, CA. The collection features five poems written over Anne Sexton's fifteen-year career.
      Natalie Mann Natalie Mann
      Bridget Hough Bridget Hough
    • September 9th, 2017: Conductor Erik Rohde led the Salomon Chamber Orchestra in a performance of Conte's Sinfonietta for classical orchestra.
  • Juliana Hall September Performances

    Several works from Juliana Hall's vocal catalog were featured in performances in September.

    • On Sunday, September 17, East Granby Congregational Church's Friends of Music Concert Series presented a concert featuring Bridget Scarlato, soprano, and Juliana Hall, piano. The duo  performed the song cycle Syllables of Velvet, Sentences of Plush, a song from Upon This Summer's Day, and one song from Christina's World.
    Bridget Scarlato Bridget Scarlato
    • On Thursday, September 21, selections from Hall's Night Dances were featured in a guest voice recital at Indiana University at South Bend. Soprano Amy Petrongelli and pianist Mariah Boucher were the performing artists.
    Amy Petrongelli Amy Petrongelli
    Mariah Boucher Mariah Boucher



    For more information about Juliana Hall's art song catalog, click here.

  • Gwyneth Walker: Composer-in-Residence with Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra

    The Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra and Chorus, Petoskey, MI, named Gwyneth Walker as Composer-in-Residence for the 2017 - 2020 seasons. The ensemble scheduled several upcoming performances of her music in upcoming concerts, including the 2020 premiere of Walker's new cantata The Great Lakes. The work was originally commissioned by the Toledo Choral Society in honor of their centennial season in 2020.

    On September 23, the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra brings to life the music of Spain featuring Walker's La Ternura (Tenderness) for Soprano, oboe, percussion, and string orchestra. Soprano Amy Joy Cross joins the orchestra to perform the piece.

    La TernuraLa Ternura (Tenderness) is a set of songs based on the poetry of Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957). Mistral (a pseudonym for Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga) was an active poet, educator, and diplomat; she was the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1945).

    The poems are found in a set entitled "Ternura" (Tenderness) published in 1923. These are songs of mother to son. However, the message of maternal care is colored by many personal losses in the poet's life – the death of family, lovers and even an adopted son. And surrounding the creation of the poems was the ever-present fear arising from the political unrest in Chile. Thus the mother, as she rocks her son to sleep, sings, “I who have lost everything am now afraid to sleep.”

    The six songs in La Tenura range from tender, to occasionally entertaining, to intense and tragic. At the end of the cycle the mother dreams of the day that her child will leave the earth and be carried up to Heaven. “Lift up your face, my son, and receive the stars.”

    Description by Gwyneth Walker.

    Click here to learn more.

  • Musica Harmonia performs chamber music of Gywneth Walker

    Chamber ensemble Musica Harmonia performs Gwyneth Walker's When the Spirit Sings (2011), commissioned by the ensemble, on September 30 at Eastern Mennonite University. Formed in 2007 by members Joan Griffing (violin), Beth Vanderborgh (cello), Diane Phoenix-Neal (viola) and Naoko Takao (piano), the group dedicates itself to promoting peace and cultural understanding through music collaboration.

    When the Spirit Sings is a set of three American spirituals arranged for string trio. The intent was to select songs with a variety of character - soulful, energetic, mournful and rhythmic - and present them in new ways through idiomatic string writing. The "voices" of the strings are well-suited to the language of spiritual songs.

    In all three movements, the original tunes are shared between the strings, with the other players providing accompaniment. And then, "excursions" away from the basic melody occur. In "My Lord, What a Morning," a middle section moves into the minor mode, with the violin playing a variation of the theme marked "soulfully." The viola follows with a further "offshoot" of the melody. This leads to a closing section which crosses back and forth between the major and minor modes (in blues style). One might hear an expression of the lyrics "My Lord, what a morning, when the stars begin to fall!" in the cascades of descending scales.

    The second movement is an arrangement of the very poignant spiritual, "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" The strings are muted, with sorrow. A background pattern introduced by the viola and cello may be heard as sobbing rhythms. Motives similar to these are heard throughout this movement. Patterns which express sobbing or falling tears form the essence of the music. At the end, the viola and violin ascend, as the soul rising to heaven.

    "This Train" is an energetic, rhythmic movement. Although the energy is controlled at the start, activity increases by the second verse (viola theme), as the "outer" instruments scurry up and down the track. Later, chords build up in pyramid fashion with a crescendo and accelerando leading to a raucous finale. The train then slides (in glissando) to a halt at the end.

    "This Train (is bound for glory)" was created while the composer was riding her local train, the "Vermonter," to a concert in New Haven, CT. The "Vermonter" derailed upon the return trip. But the music is expected to stay "on track!"

    Description by Gwyneth Walker.

    Click here to learn more.

    Musica Harmonia and Centuar Records released a complete recording of music by Gwyneth Walker. When the Spirit Sings: Chamber Music of Gwyneth Walker is available here. 

  • Elena Ruehr: work for voice & string quartet performed in Boston concert series

    Emmanuel Church of Boston's "Late Night at Emmanuel" series presents a cabaret-style concert, including the performance of A Supermarket in California by Elena Ruehr. Written for baritone and string quartet, text author Allen Ginsberg bases the words on thoughts by Walt Whitman. The poem describes an imaginary encounter between the poet and Walt Whitman, whom Ginsberg greatly admired, as Whitman wanders around a supermarket, then out into the night, and finally to the Greek underworld. The work, written in 2016, will be performed by the commissioning artists: David Kravitz, baritone, and the Arneis Quartet. The concert takes place September 23.

    Source: Late Night at Emmanuel: Howl Tickets

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