As important as pedagogical music is for me, I also enjoy it when the music that spills out onto the page is more challenging in nature. While I never write music that is complex simply for the sake of it, my works for collegiate and professional choruses often features mixed-meter, modalism, dissonance, and through-composition. As always, I focus my attentions on texts and textures which I hope will fascinate and engage singers and audiences alike. I write less of this music, simply because (at the moment) my attentions and commissions are focused on music for developing voices; however, I hope you find something on this page which enlivens your program.
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Firelight is a fast, fun, furious piece with no actual words. The entire song is comprised of a variety of onomatopoeias, making this a lot like Irish mouth-music or scat singing, but without any belonging to any particular tradition. There are stomps, claps, a "high C" solo for a soprano, and lots of rocking rhythms. The choir is encouraged to "party" while singing this song, trading around its nonsense syllables and grooving to the "guitar and drum" inspired rhythms. Challenging it may be, but it will be a blast to perform!
e.e. cummings' "anyone lived in a pretty how town" was first published in 1940. Like much of Cummings' work, the poem makes use of unusual syntax and punctuation, and deals with themes of humanity, love, and nature. At first glance, the syntax obscures the central themes of the poem, which concern two characters, named "anyone" and "noone," who live in a town filled with other nameless folk. These townspeople, who are described as "little and small," perhaps in mind as well as stature, are open in their dislike for the two outsiders, anyone and noone, whose courtship spans the course of the poem. In any other context, anyone and noone are nameless, faceless nonentities, literally devoid of individuality. But through their courtship, commitment, life and eventual death, these generic words become fully-formed humans, whose lives are rich and full of meaning. Once Cummings' surface-level quirks are understood, we see that "anyone lived in a pretty how town" is a love poem: a story of how these two ciphers transform one another into real people.
Think of this piece as “David Conte Lite” and you’ve got the right idea. The stomps and claps add a lot of excitement, and this would make an excellent opener or closer. There are two challenges with this piece: the mixed meter, and the unfamiliar latin text. But a choir that puts the time and effort into this piece will find it extremely fun to sing.
While this piece is in unison, it is written in a freer chant style which could present challenges for less experienced ensembles. That is not to say that it would not be lovely performed by a children's choir; however, I did have a more advanced ensemble in mind when writing it. The text, a lovely meditation, speaks of the value of nature and our duty to care for it. This piece will eventually be part of my (in-progress) song-cycle for women's voices.
Track-pack is currently unavailable for this piece.
This piece was inspired by the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. It has a driving mixed meter, energetic dynamic shifts, and requires quite a bit of dexterity for all the repeated syllables. This piece would be a challenge, but ultimately very rewarding for a choir willing to put in the time and energy.
A very dramatic selection which could only be programmed by choirs with basses who are strong enough to handle a two-part split (harmonically, the piece relies on them). This text, by Carl Sandburg, resonates with me, as it is the prayer of a man to be put to the test and made stronger by his God so that he can better serve him. Using through-composition, I have tried to imitate the “trials” in the opening section, and the peace that comes from feeling part of a greater plan in the closing.
I am currently in the process of writing a choral song-cycle for advanced women's chorus on the topic of nature. This piece, with adapted quotes from Henry David Thoreau's "Walden Pond," will be featured. This piece features a rather challenging piano part, a variety of harmonic shifts, and varies between featuring two, three, and four part splits for the chorus.
Another beloved poet of mine (and many others) is Sara Teasdale. This song features an a dramatic climax, followed by an a cappella section towards the end which will prove challenging for many choirs. Ultimately though, the effect is one of soothing and comfort. Teasdale's lifelong struggle with depression (and eventual suicide) are tragic, and this song could perhaps help facilitate discussions of such issues with its singers.
Written with a mixture of contrapuntal lines and thick, added-note harmonies, this song of unrequited love will require a skilled chorus of experienced singers. It opens with a plaintive refrain, which expands through separate contrapuntal lines into passionate sorrow, finally ending on a series of thick, added-note harmonies.
Written to propose (successfully!) to my husband, there are two recordings of "Request" that are worth listening to: The first is the "quality" recording, and the second is the "emotional" recording (featured here), featuring footage of the the proposal and the chorus crying.