I just had the most incredible weekend! As I wrote earlier, I had the honor of Dr. Patrick Freer selecting one of my favorite compositions, Journeyman's Song, as part of the program for the 2015 Florida ACDA Male Honor Choir.
I sent a packet of my music to Dr. Freer this past summer as part of my push to get things "out there" and performed more. He sent me a very nice email saying that he'd like to program the piece: I was shocked, but quite happy! I was able to do a GoFundMe campaign to attend my first major premiere (thank you to all my friends and family who contributed!), and I've just returned home. Here are some takeaways from the trip:
- No surprise here, but there are some seriously incredible choirs down in Florida. I heard a mind-blowing performance by the West Orange HS Choir that stood out as particularly exceptional: they flawlessly sang Haydn with the same enthusiasm and energy as with Sten Kållman's wonderful Berusa Er.
- Networking is a challenging but necessary task. I met several fantastic educators and directors down in Florida, and also had the pleasure to meet the composer of an awesome men's piece that was on the same program as Journeyman's Song. Check out Ryan Main!
- It's incredible to be there for the premiere of a work. The piece was graciously received, and I had the opportunity to speak first-hand to many of the young men who sang it so well. Several of them were nice enough to say that it was their favorite piece on the program, and that it was really meaningful for them. I'm most proud of this fact: Journeyman's Song doesn't "talk down" to its singers, and it just supports my knowledge that middle schoolers are hungry to sing music that expresses complicated and/or intense emotions. It's part of why I'm so interested in writing quality music for that age group. I love a good pirate song as much as anybody, but they are capable of so much more.
- Thanks to Dr. Freer's wonderful direction, I was able to hear Journeyman's Song for the first time outside my own head. In doing so, I learned a few things to include in the future for my scores, in particular:
- If the piece might be interpreted with rubato but you don't want that, you have to explicitly say so. Thankfully I was there to make the tempi very clear to the choir, and to Dr. Freer's credit, he was flexible and gracious to make the change and have the piece sound the way I wanted.
- It's helpful to perhaps include conducting gesture indications if it's not clear (Journeyman's Song is written in 3/4 for ease of reading by MS students, but should be conducted in 1).
- For a piece that has a countermelody instead of a harmony part, it should be indicated that the countermelody be sung with a more soloistic feel (though I of course advocate that 99% of all lines should be sung melodically, even as part of a standard chorale texture!)
- It might be helpful to include suggestions on microphrasing (dynamic swells, etc.), though I am also afraid that it leaves out room for interpretation if you overmark your scores. I tend to trust that the directors who choose my pieces will make intelligent decisions with regard to phrasing, just like Dr. Freer.
- All these changes have been made to the official score for Journeyman's Song, so future choirs can benefit from the experience. This is a major benefit to being self-published!
With the exception of the fact that I missed my return flight (Whoops! Turns out getting up at 5 AM to get to the airport is harder than it sounds) this was a perfect trip. The weather in Florida was a nice change from the increasingly chilly temperatures we're getting in Colorado, and musically, it was just fantastic. I hope I get to go back to Florida very soon to work again!