29 September 2014

Glimpses of future performance

My plane fare for Atlanta in November (which will get here quite soon, actually) is booked. I should begin practicing just what everyone was expecting in earnest. And, while I can practice the piece on the A, the time is upon me when I have got to have the B-flat repaired (not heavy repair, to be sure).

Soon, I shall actually speak in real time with the marimbist for The Mysterious Fruit!

The quest for a brass quintet proceeds apace.

And there may be another handbell choir where a piece or two of mine may flourish.

28 September 2014

Down time (sort of)

Well, it has been a weekend of getting a little work done, getting my walks in (and exulting in the delicious "Indian summer" weather), and naps, honestly. Sure, I hear a nagging voice, reminding me of tasks which want doing. But at this stage, I understand that rest is Value Added, of itself.

27 September 2014

The Mystic Trumpeter, rehearsal III

Yesterday was a wonderfully good rehearsal with Evelyn of The Mystic Trumpeter. We ran it; then rehearsed some spots; then ran it again. We're in very good shape.

Today's task is to wrap up the fresh arrangement of The Snow Lay on the Ground.

Oh, and some practicing!  I am close to negotiating all my semiquaver triplets properly;  but we do not want merely close to.  And I can kill 'em, I know I can.

Must call Bob Drinkwater, too, and arrange for the Bb to be repaired (perhaps even overhauled).

26 September 2014

On that rehearsal-bound train

At last, I realize that the most efficient way to travel between the office and chez Griffin, is the commuter rail. Here I am, seated in near-sybaritic comfort.

I feel some little excitement at the prospect of reviving the Op.68 The Snow Lay on the Ground, no less than the giddy prospect of finally putting on the complete Op.67.

First things first, though:  it feels fantastic to be preparing The Mystic Trumpeter, at last!

Quiet, Calm Friday Morning

Through (as Jeeves would say) a concatenation of circumstances, last night at choir rehearsal we experienced the numerical oddity of only one singer each in three of the sections. We had a strong showing of sopranos, though, and rehearsal was good. We made more than a fair start on learning Sweetest Ancient Cradle Song.

And this morning, I've my clarinet at the ready for tonight's rehearsal of The Mystic Trumpeter.

25 September 2014

Eureka à la Noël

It has been most well suggested, that we ought to sing some music, the children's and adult choirs together. And Anne, the director of our children's choir, suggested this past week that the children would particularly enjoy taking part in the Christmas concert. It seems obvious! None of the parishes I've worked with before had an active children's choir program, so let me plead that as the nearest excuse for my blindspot.

The handbells, and the guest violinist make the project readily practical, and the piece is perfect for inclusion of the children; so last night I began re-arranging The Snow Lay on the Ground.  Not ready for tonight's rehearsal, but for next week!

24 September 2014

Cradle Song Choral Score Endgame

"Getting the choral score done" on Saturday was, in a sense, true: I had reduced the five staves of the brass quintet to two or three. And (what I suppose I ought to be able to adjust "backstage" in the Sibelius settings) manually overriding, system by system, the peculiarly large space Sibelius puts between the bass clef staff of the organ manual, and the pedal staff. And a few obvious layout adjustments (e.g., where the final measure of a system was a key and tempo change).

I had also made efforts to re-flow the pages so that, where possible, more than one system should fit on each page. The first attempt ran to 43pp., perhaps six of which still only had a single system. The quick-&-dirty "fix" for that was, to try reducing the size of the staves. Although there is a decimal place in that field, I seemed here bound to select a multiple of 0.5, so the reduction was not to so fine a degree as I should have preferred . . . but the result was a choral score which ran to only 36pp.

That, then, was the state of the project when the weekend drew to a close.

Before taking the choral score to press, though, I wanted to compare the two, which I did Monday; and I found that the smaller staves were a significant inconvenience, compared to the 43-pp. score. Yesterday, then, I closely proofread the larger-staved score, discovering a few further tweaks. And today I have a finished score, suitable for placing into the hands of my choir (and on the music stand of our organist) which stands at 41pp.

And we are thus ready to begin rehearsing the piece at tomorrow's rehearsal.

23 September 2014

The Mystic Trumpeter, rehearsal II

Had a splendid, energizing, productive rehearsal with Evelyn last night.  She has, not surprisingly, learnt the piece better . . . or perhaps it is a bit of a surprise - since we rehearsed last just Friday, and she had a very musically busy weekend (she is singing in a local production of Carmen).  So we made good progress, rehearsing section by section in order . . . and then, I asked her if she had steam enough to try running the lot, and seeing where we were.  That run-through was not perfect, but the piece is in a very encouraging state.  For after all, the concert is not until 7 October; and we rehearse again this Friday.

And from the clarinetist's perspective:  just playing through the piece twice is a fine, robust practicing routine . . . .

Program Note for a Piece Which No Longer Exists in Quite That Form

The Tower Room Is Empty (in memoriam Wm A. Goodwin)

Having in mind the complexities, asymmetries, and rhythmic challenges of so much new music, Bill joked with me several times that I could write anything for him, anything at all, so long as it was (1) in C Major, (2) in 4/4 time, (3) written all in whole-notes, and (4) marked Largo. In fact, Bill was a great sport, and responded uncomplainingly to the changes in meter which frequently appear in my music. There were many occasions when Bill invited me to play clarinet as part of the service at this church, and he accompanied. For this elegiac piece, then, it seemed to me fitting (first) to compose a piece with a free, seemingly improvisatory rhythmic profile; and (second) that the piece be for clarinet unaccompanied, since Mr Goodwin is no longer at the console of the E.&G.G. Hook organ to which he was so affectionately devoted.

[Postscript: the sketches I made for The Tower Room Is Empty have since been subsumed into the cello and piano piece, ...illa existimans quia hortulanus esset... This latter piece assumes the Op.121 number which I had originally reserved for The Tower Room Is Empty.]

21 September 2014

A mere statistic

Number of calypso anthems for which I drew up electric bass and maraca parts, Sep 1981 to Aug 2014:  0

Number of calypso anthems for which I drew up electric bass and maraca parts, Sep 2014:  2

(I do it for love of my choir.)

Evening before last

Friday's rehearsal of The Mystic Trumpeter with Evelyn Griffin was a blast;  an excellent start, and we have ample time for rehearsal and polish, so the 7 October performance should be cracking!

One funny thing is:  we read through it section by section, and I decided to start with what is probably the easiest section, Bring the old pageants--show the feudal world.  Anyway, we hopped from section to section, and at one point where we stopped and needed to restart, we had trouble, because Evelyn told me a measure number, and I began playing, but she got thrown off somehow.  At that point in the score, my part and the score were a measure off!  I assured her that I would clean it up later, and now that we knew that was the problem, we adjusted and continued rehearsing.  Turned out that at one seam where there was a silent pause (in time), I had decided there was a little too much time, so I changed what had been two 6/8 measures into a single 9/8 measure.  That was how Evelyn's score (correctly) read, yet I hadn't made that change in the clarinet part.

NORMALLY:  any change to the score results in changes through all the parts belonging to that file.  But:  I had created a separate file for the clarinet part . . . since the clarinet is in A, but the singer should have a score in C, the lowest notes would be on illegibly numerous leger lines, so for the score I resorted to occasionally casting the clarinet part in bass clef.  Hence the need for a separate file for the clarinet part, since practically no clarinetist will find odd bits in bass clef intelligible.

20 September 2014

A little Christmas

A little to my own surprise, I managed to get the choral score for Sweetest Ancient Cradle Song done today . . . and I only started it at perhaps ten o'clock this morning. To be sure, the task went much smoother in Sibelius than I ever worked with Finale. And this very morning I learnt a method, or a task, which greatly simplified the process of reducing the brass quintet to two (or at times three) staves. That work done, layout and page flow remained. After the first pass, the choral score ran to 42pp., but there were perhaps 4-5 pages on which there was only a single system. After a walk, a quick grocery run, and supper, I reduced the staff size slightly . . . and then re-flowed the pages afresh, getting the choral score down to 37pp. Now, to print a proof of the shorter of the two, to confirm that it is as legible as I wish.

19 September 2014

Trumpeter, Ho!

Smashing first rehearsal with Evelyn. This piece will rock Boston to its beany foundation.

Small steps

Word is in from Kirstin: The Op.121 will go on in April 2015, at the Rivers Conservatory Contemporary Seminar.

No progress with the flute choir adaptation of the Agnus Dei; it will happen someday.

Scintillating whispers of making some music out in Colorado . . . I have some ideas.

Wednesday, I had a nice chat with Paul, and at their first rehearsal the chorus found the Op.123 a bit of a challenge (which does not surprise me), though Paul feels that nothing is insurmountable (which does not surprise me, either). He will rehearse most of the solos as sections, and may leave many of them that way for the performance (which is fine). He called the opening imitative Dona nobis pacem "gorgeous," which was of course highly gratifying.

16 September 2014

Start it up

If I do not mistake, the Op.123 will start rehearsal this evening.

Meanwhile, my clarinet and I have a hot date . . . .

15 September 2014

Whole lotta love

The weekend saw a good start on The Mysterious Fruit, Op.124 for mezzo-soprano and marimba (the author and singer have both seen the draught, and have both responded warmly); I continued this morning by looking over the entirety of the text for overall architecture, and even scribbling a few more notes.

The weekend saw quite a bit of tidying of old scores: a fresh Sibelius file of the Op.66 Prelude on Kremser for trumpet and organ (and an official score of the cl/org version, which is how I've played it some 10 times by now), and now reflecting the many expressive nuances I have played into the piece, which it was high time to add to the score. And the alternate version of Après-mystère with piccolo rather than C flute, which (again) is pretty much how we've always played it. So, a weekend of engraving into the scores some of the accumulated "oral tradition."

Yesterday, the choir made a great hit; when the anthem ended, the congregation applauded. As one of my choristers remarked, if the congregation applauds, the choir's mission is being fulfilled.

In the ongoing planning for the Christmas concert, I've secured a violinist's cooperation . . . so I am planning to write a piece for violin and the handbells. Working title is In the kindly Star's shadow.

Still hoping to get a brass quintet for that event . . . so I had better prepare the choral score of the Op.67 Sweetest Ancient Cradle Song.

I've got to prepare the bass part for the two calypso numbers for the choir.

I should formalize/expand the ad hoc arrangement we sang last year of "I Want Jesus to Walk With Me."

Next week is the first handbell choir rehearsal of the season; so I have got to have at least two pieces we are ready to read. I think one of them should be the Musette, which we can do better than at the first performance this past June, and which will go nicely on the Christmas concert.

I sent the Op.66 Prelude on Kremser to my old schoolmate Steve Falker, who says he's going to keep it.

Thinking of calling the fl/cl/vc trio (whenever I write it) See-Thru Voodoo.

And since Evelyn and I start rehearsing this Friday, yours truly had best get practicing, meself.

13 September 2014

Beginning to catch up

Choir rehearsal this past Thursday went very well; we’re still in the stamina-rebuilding phase, and I’ve filled the choir folders with pieces which (as was remarked) are “energetic but not too sentimental,” so the group have had good energy. Just for fun, really (and since the octavos were in the filing cabinets, and I was asked to lead them in livelier music) there are two calypso arrangements (one of them for Christmas – yes, the classic Calypso Christmas!) and one of the quicker tasks on my slate for this weekend is to create bass parts so that one of the young adults in the congregation can play along.

One delightful surprise was a call from Paul which I took as I was walking from my car to the church (I was plenty early for rehearsal, so we had a nice un-rushed chat). The Framingham chorus were not able to get to my Op.123 on their rehearsal this past Tuesday, but they will be sure to start work on it next week. Paul also thinks it possible he might do the piece with his choir at FCB; which is exactly the sort of “could be” which is an effective motivation to get a Lux Nova imprint prepared (something which will happen anyway, as Lux Nova and I together consider the piece readily marketable).

Further, at FCB they are starting to revive a handbell choir, so Paul asked for some of my pieces. Exciting times!

The concert in Framingham for the concert première of the Op.123 (if Paul decides to bring it to First Church, they may sing it Sunday, 2 Nov) is probably Tuesday, 9 Dec.

11 September 2014

Textual clarification

For the Op.123, I did not use any complete Whitman poem (not that there would have been anything wrong with that), but selected an assortment of lines from the sixth (final) stanza of "The Return of the Heroes," and a streamlined selection from the celebrated "A child said, What is the grass?" passage (also the sixth stanza) from the magnificent Song of Myself.

Song of Myself is a poem which someday I should like to set in its entirety.

06 September 2014

Note to self

Will Misapprehension work as a string choir piece?

04 September 2014

A new year

Tonight is the first choir rehearsal of the "new year," and I am pleased and excited to make music with all these good people again. And I think I've figured out a way to "reform" the choir folders, their numeration. This was something which did not make any sense to disrupt the singers mid-year; and by the same token, if I am going to do it, better do it now.

Towards the end of last season, I got the peculiar feeling that I was pushing too much of my own music on them. (It was not intentional; there were some non-Henning pieces which didn't work out at a couple of points.) Anyway, we'll start this year off with no Henning in the folder, and the composer will be discreet about "leavening" the repertoire.

Part of me still wants to try Sweetest Ancient Cradle Song for the Christmas concert; part of me doesn't want to bother with A Certain Factor.

02 September 2014

Labor Day done

Reporting a little late, but:

Got the organ solo arrangement (Op.77a) of the Canzona & Gigue done for Carson Cooman, who advises that he will include the twain on a program at King's Chapel on 15 Feb 2015.

Had a nice chat with Olivia Kieffer, who reports that the Reinhardt University Percussion Ensemble are having fun preparing My Island Home.  And she is game to put just what everyone was expecting together for our 11 Nov 2014 concert.  (Is it forward of me to call it our concert?)

Luke Ottevanger has re-emerged!

Looking forward to our first choir rehearsal of the new singing season, this Thursday.  They want energy, and why not?

And with the distractions (peculiar, peculiar distractions) of the Labor Day weekend at last done, this evening I got back to work on the Op.123 for the Framingham State Chorus.