19 June 2018

The musical day, 17 June 2018


11:00 Handbell Choir rehearsal.  First time reading the parts I marked up for the Behnke.  Of the four ringers, two are "subs."  We also had our flutist, to whom I had gotten a part only the day before.  With such a rehearsal, you know that things will not start out perfect, nor do you demand that we reach perfection by the rehearsal's end.  This anthem is on for Sunday the 24th, so it's Do or Die.  We're Doing.

12:15 JSB, Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin, BWV 125 on the drive back to Woburn.

ca. 14:15 A nap.

17:40 Holmboe, String Quartet № 13 on the drive to Somerville.

18:10 Enter Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church.

18:30 Carol launches the pre-concert warm-up/touch-up with Seven-Line Supplication.  We have basically 5 mins per number.  For Hariyu, I target two passages, and then yield, figuring that some other item on the program will want an extra minute, at a juncture when time is a precious commodity.  For Green Is the Color of Its Flame, time insufficient to run the lot.  There's a request to run "my" Allargando.  Everything on the program feels good.

ca. 19:30 Triad withdraw to the (notably cooler) basement.  I close my eyes, relax.  Do not actually sleep, of course.

19:55 We line up.

20:05 Concert.  For Hariyu, I add a new bit of "choreography," in stepping aside the stand and crouching for the piano, 6/8 passage; performance sharp, energetic.  The Agnus Dei goes especially mellifluously;  highly satisfactory.  For Green Is the Color of its Flame, my challenge is, especially, to respect the pianist's activity (i.e., that I not rush);  performance warm, solid, optimistic in that peculiarly Thoreau way.  The entire concert went very, very well.

21:15 Après-concert.  The host of the venue warmly congratulated [Triad as represented by] me on "an excellent concert";  he's worked with us/me several times over the years, so we did indeed manage to make an especially strong impression.  A couple of members spoke me encouraging remarks viz. my conducting, for which I am grateful;  I can certainly stand to do better, as with any performance.  One singer paid me the great compliment of saying that in this performance, the final cadence on pacem was especially affecting.  Another asked me how I felt about the tempo, if it was "what [I] had in mind" for the Agnus Dei;  I explained that I wrote the piece with the idea that, depending on the size of the choir, and on the performance space, the tempo would be malleable – that I did not have a single, "correct" tempo which was the necessary ideal.  I assured her that the composer was entirely satisfied with the evening's performance.

21:45 Holmboe, String Quartet № 13 on the drive home.

18 June 2018

From the Archive :: June 2008

18 June 2008

In rehearsing The Mousetrap, Pete and I have found that it runs a bit longer than I’d expected earlier on. And it’s a lunchtime recital, and quite a few fellow workers here at the office will turn out . . . so we can’t have the concert running long.  Regrettably, then, I’ll strike Blue Shamrock from today’s program, and figure on including it in a program later in the year.

20 June 2008

Now it can be told: I had a blast on Wednesday.  Pete is such a damned good player!  The performance of The Mousetrap, notwithstanding its distance from Strict Perfection, amply justified my speculation in writing such a behemoth of a chamber

I hadn’t thought about it in a while;  yet when I was asked the inevitable question, yesterday, about what tie-in the title has with the piece, my former thoughts had settled into something approaching coherence.

The title comes from Hamlet.  The play-within-the-play is The Murder of Gonzago, and yet when Claudius asks, Hamlet tells him the name is The Mousetrap.  Generally, in the background of the composition, were thoughts of how Shakespeare on one level, drew frankly from existing dramatic sources, but created something of excellence which is all his own;  and on another level, has a distinct dramatic event which is an organic piece of the whole.  Part of my thinking in the piece was, a new (for myself) approach to including ‘found objects’, and also variation in representing the object.

Now, I started writing a piece for Pete and me to play together almost exactly a year ago.  Originally it was going to be a relatively brief piece . . . and sparse and atmospheric.  But there wasn’t the time to wrap up composition and get even an easy piece rehearsed in time for the recital, so I set the MS. down.

By the time I took it back up, I had decided on a somewhat grander plan.  Part of this may simply have been, that in my mind, it was a slow-sustained piece for a long time now, and compositionally I wanted to write a burst of activity to contrast.  Even in the early stages of the composition, I had included an ‘organic quotation’, though something pretty obscure and with sentimental value here at home, to make Maria and Irina smile . . . an allusion (though not, in The Mousetrap, in waltz-time) to a waltz used in the Gary Cooper / Audrey Hepburn movie Love in the Afternoon, called “Fascination.”  Soon I was not only broadening the compositional scope, but making a game of composing an environment whose ‘orbit’ might capture various bits from the literature.  Part of what was going on, too, was likely the fact that in writing for viola, I had in mind Shostakovich’s references elsewhere in both the Viola Sonata and the Fifteenth Symphony.  And my own fascination (!) with enlarging the piece was partly a matter of building on the Studies in Impermanence . . . thinking that, having managed a block of 20 minutes with a solo wind instrument, it must after all be an even easier accomplishment with two instruments.

Imperfections of execution notwithstanding, response to the piece was warm, from listeners with a variety of musical background.  A friend of mine has served as a recording engineer intern at Symphony Hall this past season (and she is going to go back to school for more studies this fall).  She very graciously fetched in her gear and recorded the recital; she sounds confident in the quality of the resulting production.  Before I actually get my own hands on the recording, she is going to clean up such things as, the rumble of the Red Line trains regularly passing underneath the Cathedral . . . .

17 June 2018

The Mousetrap of Yore

Ten years ago today, violist Peter Lekx & I were rehearsing The Mousetrap for a 18 June 2008 performance.

My notes from 17 June 2008 include the notation:
Just for the record, Pete is still calling me “evil.”
Few enough have earned the right to sling that adjective at me . . . .

16 June 2018

Back where it began

Here am I, at the Ear Buds place again.  The dream of a young man in the woods, listening.

Working Wherever

And today, at The Composer’s Movable Workplace:

For the second consecutive time (so, yes, it has the appearance of being made a habit) I brought my laptop with me, to work on a task for the HTUMC Music Program while I waited for an oil change.

As befitteth a composer, the timing was perfect:  I had reached the final double-bar of the flute part which I was attaching to Dr John A Behnke’s Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds just as the announcement came over the intercom inviting me back to the Service Area.

Tomorrow morning, we rehearse the handbells;  and we put it all together Sunday the 24th.

15 June 2018

A kind of floating

Your vision will become clear when you look into your heart.
– Jung

This is more or less how I feel, when I listen to Ear Buds.  When singing, or simply listening to, Nuhro.

There is music which I write, the process of creating which is not (on the surface) governed by how I want to compose it.  But there is a sound in my inner ear, which I know to be a good sound, and a sound apt for expansion into a full piece.  And my “work”?  To be obedient to the sound.

It should be added (that is, it appears to me to be true) that the reason that I am able, today, to ‘surrender’ my musical mind to obedience to a sound, and that the result can be a musical composition with which my ear, my mind, and my heart are altogether satisfied – the reason is, I have years of experience writing, and many of the pieces I have written over the years have been governed (well governed, no tyranny here) by the mind.  The process – not one process, but a repertory of processes, approaches – is internalized.

I can be obedient to the sound, because I know I can trust my ingrained musical habits.  Discipline;  the fruits of discipline.

14 June 2018


Unable to find a suitable brass player for the 24th; so be it.  I do need to prepare a flute part, now.  Or, well, tomorrow.

Struck up an acquaintance with a pianist in Philly.  And recalled that only two of my pieces for piano solo have ever been performed for an audience.

Triad concert this Sunday evening (the 17th).

Michael Joseph is playing an organ recital in Nashua on the 24th, which I can make.

And I pronounce the Dances Defiant done, both the Boston Harbor Heave-Ho (Tea Party Dance) and Revere’s Midnight Reel (War Dance).  They will make a good addition to programming here in Boston, in any event.

On Chatty Porcupines, and No Puertorriqueño of This World

As I cuddled the porcupine,
He said I had none to blame but me [...]
No time for romantic escape
When your fluffy heart is ready for rape.
— Peter Cuddles With Porcupines Gabriel

After Selling England by the Pound, Genesis collectively felt that they had settled, over their first four-ish albums, into something of an airy-fairy rut.  Part of the idea with The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway was, a change in tone (or, something) to a fresh, deep-in-the-NY-street “realism.”  For reasons not germane to this post, the project became a double-LP concept album, and Peter Gabriel took sole charge of writing the words (both the song lyrics, and the rambling prose on the inner gatefold which does not really answer for either clarification, nor synopsis).

It was an ambitious undertaking for a group with more musical polish and acumen than your average pop band.  And I’ll disclose at the outset that, musically, I think it a magnificent achievement, and in spite of the difficulties the band had in the course of its creation and touring.  (It was while touring this album that Gabriel announced to the rest of the band that he had had it.)

The narrator (when the voice is in the first person) is a Puerto Rican youth in New York named Rael.  No, but really.  You hardly get more realistic than that, now, do you?

The second indication that Gabriel did not make sufficient effort to enter the mindset and world of his fictional Puerto Rican:  Rael has a brother named . . . John.  If there was ever a puertorriqueño in New York whose name was Rael (let's be fair—I don’t absolutely know that there has not been), if he had a brother, I bet a jeroboam of Bacardí that the brother’s name was Juan, rather than John.

To repeat, musically I admire this album, practically unreservedly.  All through his stint with Genesis, Gabriel tended to be (to use a charitable adjective) adventurous with words;  and in this Genesis fan’s view, perhaps his successes outnumbered his stinkers, but he misfired with some regularity.  There are IMO cringely moments on all four sides of this double-LP.

Rael is supposed to be a tough city kid.  Again, this is a simple matter of Gabriel failing to focus on remaining in-character.  Consider the following, from “The Chamber of 32 Doors”:

I’d rather trust a countryman than a townman,
You can judge by his eyes, take a look if you can,
He’ll smile through his guard,
Survival trains hard.

The city kid Rael may well trust a countryman better than a city-dweller, though one supposes that his idea of a countryman is theoretical – when would he have soaked in country-living experience?  Theoretical, and therefore possibly a bit romantic.  But, presumably, Rael’s own experience is that survival trains hard in the city, just as much.  The fairest we can say is, this is not a fully-conceived character named Rael speaking;  it’s Author’s Message.  It is not (especially as pop music goes) “bad writing”;  it just doesn’t rise to the ambition of the undertaking.

An unfortunate line that (to my ear) grates worse because he winds up repeating it, riff-like, is that matter of being “ready for rape.”

The sourness of the note is reinforced by my recently reading a similarly unfortunate whitewashing, in Stravinsky’s rather distasteful remark that rape could somehow “be justified by the birth of a child.”

Not to belabor the point (my enjoyment of and admiration for the music is undiminished in either case), the apparent belittling of assault and violation strikes me as, at the least, unseemly.  Products of their time?  Perhaps.

I suppose, though, that in Gabriel’s case, the tone is justified by (what I earlier accused him of failing in) creating a character.

A contemporary-ish counter-example of rape being treated with all due severity, is in Hitchcock’s Marnie, of 1964.  In contrast to Suspicion of 1941, whose ending was modified so that Cary Grant’s character would not be an actual villain, Sean Connery plays a character, not as a rule bad, but who in a moment of weakness is worse than a cad.  Let casuists argue that a husband is “due” the sexual enjoyment of his wife, and therefore it “cannot be” rape;  but, delicately though it is shot and cut, Rutland rapes Marnie, and the consequence is, she attempts suicide.

It is part of our epoch, both that we are faced with a heightened awareness of sexual abuses (of varying degrees) which women suffer as they strive to work in the business world (or indeed, the world at all), and that suicide is on an appalling rise.  I did not set out for this theme, when I started writing this blog post;  nor, having found myself sounding it, do I shun it.  There are those well known to me, of whom it would be a betrayal, if I shrug it off.

Awareness.  Compassion.  Decency.

None of this, is too much to ask.

Awareness.  Compassion.  Decency.

13 June 2018

More proofing

The sweet benefit of having the work substantially done so early:  one can take three days for proofing and refinements.

Even as the sands in the hourglass....

Unsure that I have ‘reported’ this, but there is a chance that we shall play Deep Breath next May, or even sooner, in January.

There is no urgent need to hire, but I am still inquiring after a brass player for Sunday the 24th.  My first choice (a horn player) was unavailable;  nor was my second (euphonium player).  I’ve now sent word to the hornist who was part of the quintet for the première of the full Sweetest Ancient Cradle Song.  I think that if she be unavailable, I’ll discontinue the search.  It is for an anthem which does have parts for an optional brass quintet (which, knowing that we would not hire a full quintet in the near future, I did not purchase);  my idea being that I would draw up my own horn (or euphonium) part.  I have held back on the work, though – partly because I was not sure I should need a horn or a euphonium part, partly because I am also drawing up a flute part for Marissa Bell, and that is a part I shall do differently, if the flute be the only single-line instrument we add to the anthem.

Actually, I sent word to the Cradle Song hornist, courtesy of an address furnished by the first trumpeter from that same occasion, Tim Deik.  As a result, I’ve now sent Tim the brass quartet version (trombones) of Down Along the Canal to Minerva Road.

No word from the euphonium player for whom I prepared a 2 tp/2 euph version of Minerva Road.

Thanks to Facebook, I have reconnected with a French cellist whom I first met here in New England (of course), so, who knows? there may be a French performance of some Henningmusick à bientôt.

To a local string quartet who champion new music, I have sent a follow-up email message.

Very nearly sent a similar follow-up about The Nerves, only I realize that the first message was sent out 10 days ago.  Maybe on some plane of etiquette, 10 days is a polite interval;  but I shall give it a solid two weeks.

A flute player made the initial proposal for a new piece, but I have had no reply to (now) two e-mail messages.  I did begin a fresh sketch, back at the time we spoke in person;  but I shall wait, before continuing.  (Incidentally, this is one reason why opus numbers wind up getting reassigned.)

The Dances Defiant are, I believe, ready for shipment.

There is a local group to whom I sent Misapprehension, oh, some time ago.  No word.

Through all this, what is the important thing?  First, that I continue to do the work.  Second, that I find the work to my own artistic satisfaction.  Third, that there are conductors and performers who are made aware that I am creating new work, each month;  even if no performance results this year, my work has flashed briefly upon their musical consciousness.  Fourth, if I have to make 50 pitches of my work, in order that a single performance may result, there may not, in fact, be any ‘more efficient’ means of getting my work performed – and the effort is not ‘wasted.’

I’m composing music.  It is what I am made to do, and what I have chosen to prepare myself to do, to the highest degree of excellence whereof I am capable.  That my work is so seldom performed, and that I am not paid for my work – these are no fault of mine.  And it is my business, that this fault should continue not to attach to me.

12 June 2018

Stealth Mitzvah

Tonight, I started work on a new cl/org piece, a Voluntary on “Beautiful Savior” (“Fairest Lord Jesus”).  I’m puttering away at it . . . I work at it for perhaps an hour—and suddenly I realize what is different, and in a most gratifying way.

Our organist at HTUMC asked me to write the piece.

Not merely does she welcome such a thing;  she asked me to write a piece.

A Day of the Red Letter, truly.

11 June 2018

Ear Buds (detail)

The initial musical idea for Ear Buds (The dream of a young man in the woods, listening) came to me while I was walking (near the titular woods, in fact) and contemplating a new (and, ideally, better suited) piece for a certain clarinet choir, a certain unusually large clarinet choir, in 15 parts.

Although the musical idea came to me as I hoped to construct a piece better suited to a specific group, I soon reached the conclusion that this piece, too, would prove inadequate to the group’s demands.  In terms of my nascent piece, this was a benefit, as I soon realized that the piece I was forming in my inner ear, would be better served by a less homogeneous ensemble.  Another consideration from the initial spark was, technical ease;  so I decided to compose the piece for symphonic band, with the idea that it may be approachable for a young ensemble.

The scoring for the symphonic band, then, was less than full.  For one example, as I had not long before attended a community band concert, and saw that there were no bassoons in the band – to be more accurate, once of the group’s conductors also served as the sole bassoonist – I wrote Ear Buds with no bassoons.

This, then, was the birth of the Op.135.

Last year, as I was sharing my Symphony with the conductor of a local orchestra, part of the conversation turned (of necessity) upon the challenges faced by the music director of a community orchestra who wants to program a substantial work of new music.  As a possible stepping-stone in that arduous journey, we talked about a smaller-scale orchestral piece.  As chronicled in this blog, I saw to that orchestral adaptation, well, almost exactly a year ago.  On the whole, I think the scoring good;  an artifact from the original band score, though, is the lack of bassoons, which is arguably a peculiarity of the Op.135a.

For the present call, the requirements of scoring meant that I had to scale back the brass a great deal.  From three trumpets (and there are a few places where they have a kind of staggered fanfare), and two horns, and three trombones – to but one of each.  Quite a bit of creative line reassignment was called for, which I had to take on more or less a page-by-page basis;  the addition of the two bassoons was rather a help.  It was necessary also to go from four percussionists, to two;  in this I was helped by the permissible addition of harp.

Thus did the Op.135b come to be.

As with a number of other pieces of mine, although I have sought to accommodate various groups/occasions with alterations, or alternate scorings, none has yet been performed for an audience.

Who knows?  This could be the year.

10 June 2018

Back, forth, and (well) back again

It was mid-May (which is to say, less than a month ago) that I was thinking of modifying the scoring of the orchestral Ear Buds—more accurately, producing an alternative orchestral scoring—for a fresh American Composers Orchestra call.

But, I had other things I was a-writing, and the time fast approached when my desk must be clear for the write-it-quickly event;  and (as noted here) I gave over the idea of the third version of Ear Buds.  After all, I have submitted scores at least twice to ACO calls, and no business resulting.

However, since (a) the work on the pair of Dances has proceeded so well, and (b) the deadline for the ACO call is tomorrow . . . I was well pleased, this afternoon, to see to bringing an orchestral version of Ear Buds into instrumentational compliance with the present ACO call, and I have now submitted it.

You don’t get the rejection letters, if you don’t send your work in . . . .

09 June 2018

Art on the Wing

And, a taste of Part I of SOUND + SIGHT, The Conquest of Emptiness:

Reeling It Off

It is just possible—or, no, more than possible, that when I set down 90 seconds as the planned duration of the War Dance here, I was allowing a buffer for when I felt that a seam would want letting out, here and there.  I have finished, and it runs up to just under two minutes, so that (as needed) the two dances together run to just under six.

Last night, I composed the ending, and then worked out the arch-like returns to B and A (as it were).  So that when I packed up the desk for the night, I had mm. 1-45 composed, and mm. 65-105 composed;  mm. 46-64 were void, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do there, and saw to the idea's execution this morning.

Work is, then, quite close to completion.

Since I have been blogging about the pieces, I have devised pseudonyms for purposes of submission.

08 June 2018

My Lord, What an Evening

Does earth plug a hole in heaven,
Or heaven plug a hole in earth?
— Peter Gabriel, just a shade goofier than usual

Firstly, it was a very good and productive rehearsal – I would not, under any circs, have this blog post's borderline-clickbait subject header mislead you as to that fundamental point.

And it was the next-to-last rehearsal of this choir season, so duties were light, spirits were at ease.

I have approached the present arrangement of My Lord, What a Morning as a workshopping endeavor, essentially.  Yes, I was tentatively proposing it as the anthem for this Sunday, but I was not going to try to fit a St Bernard onto a tablespoon.

Not to claim any surprise here, but all my characteristic rhythmic suppleness – not to say slipperiness – makes the new setting of My Lord, What a Morning unsuitable for hurried preparation. We worked with it for perhaps half an hour last night, in peace—and together we reached the decision that a no-fault Plan B was called for.

(Separately—and with no snarky musical application—some of our pre-sleeve-rolling-up banter concentrated on skunks, several creatures in various States of the Union, some of them – the skunks – quite ancient. I, for one, never knew that when skunks grow very old, their stripe yellows. For my part, I shared my Bergen County Skunk Whisperer story.)

Plan B took the ready form of refreshing the Cherwien arrangement of Let All Things Now Living (on the tune "The Ash Grove") for which our Marissa Bell will play flute again.

Now, this week before, we put How Can I Keep From Singing? together in short order. Why did Expedited Delivery work in that case, but not for my arrangement?

  1. Reliably literal repetition in How Can. Its use in this arrangement suits, it does not grow tiresome;  where in my arrangement, the rhythm is subject to continuous variation.
  2. In general, the reliably "square" (in a perfectly neutral, merely descriptive sense) rhythmic layout in How Can. My arrangement of What a Morning is peppered with syncopation, with ties across the bar, with suddenly diminuted rhythms, with the occasional surprise rest on the downbeat. My doughty choir simply need more time to digest it—though it is worth pointing out that most choirs I know, even those with seasoned musicians, might wish for more digestion time with this score, than three days.
  3. Fairly continual variation in texture through my arrangement.
  4. We did, in fact, spend time in more than one rehearsal with How Can I Keep From Singing?  Its preparation was easy, but not instantaneous.
  5. There is also the not-at-all-inconsiderable fact that, as we were singing three anthems last Sunday, we enjoyed Jaya's musical assistance.

It is my hope, Gentle Reader, that none of this should come across as in any way denigrating Russell Robinson's sweetly modulated, well-made, perfectly songful, and gratifying arrangement of How Can I Keep From Singing?  It is a gem, and excellently serviceable.  Indeed, we shall make use of it as a trio for one of the summer Sundays.

Nor do I suffer any disappointment in the delay of the My Lord, What a Morning rollout.  The choir, and our organist Barbara, find that it will be fun to sing;  only that we need more time with it.

07 June 2018

Time enough to represent the composer well

Good progress on both dances.  Choir rehearsal tonight, so the work today and tomorrow is more of (alternately) the preparatory and the refining sort.

Weeks before The Event, I considered taking a couple of days off from the day job, so as to have more days than just the Saturdays and Sundays when I might devote The Whole Day to composing.

But I considered too (or, instead) how perfectly content I am with both Deep Breath and The Nerves, two recent scores which I wrote without drawing down my PTO balance at the office – I did the work around the day job (as I do most of the year), and it is music whose integrity and quality are such to make the composer proud.

So I decided I would not take any time off from work.  That I would not set my unknown competitors at such a disadvantage . . . .

The church is now the grateful recipient of a “Used – Like New” upright piano from a gracious and generous donor.  The instrument has only today been brought into the sanctuary, and so it needs to settle before it can be tuned.  But later this month, its voice will impress the whole congregation as being a signal improvement upon the rather sorry instrument we have had until today.

There is another call for orchestral scores, for which the deadline is Monday the 11th.  I was thinking of adapting Ear Buds for that occasion;  but since I did not address that proposed task sooner, there is now no time.  And that’s fine.  Also – it is not as if my work has met with any success, on earlier calls from that organization.  Sure, I’ll try again at some future date;  but there is no need to complicate my life this week over so slender a chance.

All my chances, it may be, are of the slender variety.  Nevertheless, I do take them.

06 June 2018

Looking to Sunday, chiefly

In March of 2014, I prepared a gentle SATB arrangement of My Lord, What a Morning (the Op.118 № 5).  What I had long forgotten until I reviewed this blog post is, the handbell accompaniment was a late thought – probably allied to concerns about our then organist, God bless her.

At present, we cannot well utilize that arrangement, in part because we cannot this year manage "true SATB";  and in part because we have the fewest non-singing handbell ringers yet.

As we have already sung the anthems which I had at first planned for this Sunday (because we shall be missing two of our three-or-four altos) we need something we can assemble in a hurry.  (I have noticed that some publishers have booklets of "anthems in a hurry," for just such a contingency, but I have not yet investigated for, shall we say, suitability.)  My choir did so well, this Sunday past, with the SAB unaccompanied arrangement of How Can I Keep From Singing?, I have decided to whip up an SAB unaccompanied version, i.e. newly set, of My Lord, What a Morning (the Op.146 № 11).  I need to finish this tonight, in order to have it ready to print out for tomorrow evening's rehearsal.

Yes, this is accepting another (and arguably, a competing) immediate task, above and beyond the Contest piece at which my present work is darned near feverish.  But, hey – welcome to my world.  It goes without saying that the idea of the piece must be, that my fearless choir be able to put it together in just tomorrow evening's, and Sunday morning's, rehearsals.

Oh, my (equally fearless) handbell choir will also perform Rejoice this Sunday.  It has taken a while to rehearse it, but my ringers have risen to the challenge well.

I am presently listening to the Haydn E-flat Sonata (Hob. XVI/52) as recorded by Tom Beghin.

05 June 2018

Dances (other than tango) in Boston

Please wait while the system is powering.
– from Barbarisms That Become “Standard English” As an Accident of Poor Tech Editing

For the present requisite, I am thinking of a pair of dances:

1. Boston Harbor Heave-Ho (Tea Party Dance) – 4'
2. Revere’s Midnight Reel (War Dance) – 1'30

I have gotten a good start on both.

As I review this blog post of 22 May, I am a little bemused that I listed “The two week get-a-piece-written event” after Heart So White, as I am sure that (even then) I had known that there would be no way on earth that I should attend to both The Nerves and the Shakespeare scena before yesterday.

The Agnus Dei went beautifully Sunday night;  maestro Thos. Stumpf does a particularly excellent job with my scores (it was he who led Triad in exquisite performances of Nuhro a couple of seasons back).

04 June 2018

Musicful Sunday

Yesterday morning, their intestinal fortitude reinforced by the addition of Jaya Lakshminarayanan to Team Soprano, my fearless church choir sang not one, not two, but three anthems in the course of our service.  Last of the three was my Alleluia in D with a new flute obbligato written for and played by our Marissa Bell.  Two of the three anthems, I had originally slated for next Sunday, but as I was subsequently advised of a couple of necessary absences (and, the anthems were pretty much ready to roll), we made a morning of it yesterday.

For next Sunday, I began (yesterday afternoon) an SAB arrangement of My Lord, What a Morning.  (A few years ago, I prepared an arrangement, SATB with handbells, which our forces could not well manage at present.)  The new arrangement is to be unaccompanied, as I am encouraged by how well we managed with yesterday's How Can I Keep From Singing?

Last night's Triad concert, Past Is Prologue, went splendidly.  We do need to try to build our audience.

02 June 2018

Op.148 first movement done

I began composing The Nerves in the second half of November;  when I reached the one-minute mark, it was time to concentrate (again) on holiday music for my church choir.

Last month, having completed Deep Breath, and renewing my acquaintance with Matthew Marsit, I felt the time was right to bring The Nerves to completion.  It was rather a daring personal challenge, to see if I could finish the movement before I need to clear my composition desk for the external challenge which arrives Monday;  but I also felt that it would be good preparation, to write as quickly as I might, yet without yielding anything in terms of musical quality.

As mentioned in this blog, Gentle Reader, I knew not to expect to make musical progress within the score, either Thursday or Friday evening.  But I did not down tools:  I made many sketches, both verbal and musical.

In the event, I generated more material than I needed for the movement’s completion;  but that is (we might say) good practice, the best practice.  I gave myself rich store of musical stuff, and thus enjoyed the luxury of making do with the choicest modules/ideas.  Everything was fresh in my mind as I worked for some hours today to bring the movement to a conclusion;  I went back to make some minor adjustments;  inserted another measure (the present m.320) to remedy my feeling that the ending was just a shade too abrupt.  And I do believe I am entirely pleased with the result.

Triad concert tomorrow, so that will (quite rightly) occupy me completely once church duties are done.


I think The Nerves may be done.  I’ll get out for some air, let things cure a bit . . . .

01 June 2018

Flexibility, Productivity & Readiness

Last night's choir rehearsal found us hard at work refining both an octavo we have sung quite a few times in the past—mine own Alleluia in D—and three anthems new to our repertory:  How Can I Keep From Singing, most graciously arranged for SAB unaccompanied by Russell Robinson, and which we are very close to feeling confident in singing without the safety net of a shadow accompaniment (both discreetly and capably furnished by our new organist Barbara Otto).

A strophe-by-strophe arrangement of Lasst uns erfreuen by John Behnke, Now All the Vault of Heaven, choir SAB, organ, handbells, optional brass, and an insert for the congregation to join for vv. 1, 2 & 4. For this, I am going to draw up parts for flute, and (hopefully) horn.

And a gospel waltz number, rather a new look for our choir, River in Judæa, composed by Linda Marcus & Jack Feldman,arranged by John Leavitt. This last was something of a request by the Pastor—who did not volunteer the request on his own behalf, but suggested it for the Sunday when we had a guest speaker who asked for music based on the River motif.

So, not only were we making very good progress with the new music, but as we considered Sundays in June, between certain expected absentees one week, and choir's being off-duty for Children's Sunday another, we decided to sing three (count 'em) numbers this week. So, I presently compose an advisory e-mail message to the Pastor and the Worship Committee.

Otherwise, Gentle Reader, this post is more a matter of anticipation, than of what I may do today.  There is the relaxed question of whether I actually finish The Nerves before our Triad concert at the Church on the Hill Sunday evening;  or if I get it so nearly there, that I then leave it on the shelf until (probably) Tuesday the 19th.  Since there is no genuine deadline, the only constraint is the composer's own QC demands:  that it be the sharpest piece of its type of which I am capable at this time.  So that when I do pass it on to be reviewed by a couple of Boston-area conductors, there is a sort of musical combustion which arises before their eyes, as they read the score.

And the Great Mystery of Monday morning:  when the email advisory comes in with the specifics of the chamber work to be composed and delivered in two weeks.  This composer is ready.