Yearly Archives: 2022

Harmonia 2022–2023: “Dialogue”

Details and tickets!

Balance

MENOTTI Amelia al ballo Overture
BARBER Violin Concerto
BEYER, Huntley World Out of Balance (world premiere oratorio)

Unfinished

SCHUBERT Symphony no. 7 in B minor
MOZART Requiem (Süßmeyr completion)

Messiah

HANDEL Messiah

Concord & Discord

BRISTOW, Sheila When Music Sounds (world premiere)
KECHLEY, Robert Hard Times: Antiphonal Conversations (world premiere)
BACH Magnificat

Symphonic Legacies

STILL Poem for Orchestra
MASON Symphony No. 5 (“Harmonia”)
STILL Threnody in Memory of Jean Sibelius
SIBELIUS Symphony No. 3

Choral Echoes

A mix of choral works grouped in pairs: by Purcell & White; C. Schumann & Brahms; Tavener & Britten; Esmail & Kim; others TBD

Hope & Joy

GARCIA Vast Array
PRICE Song of Hope (West Coast premiere)
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9

Euro Tour 2022

I’m just back from Europe and wanted to collect a few thoughts here. This was a mixed work/pleasure trip, the main event being a London recording of my Concerto for Choir, an a cappella piece in seven movements that I composed during the final days of the pre-vaccine era. I will have much more to say about this later.

My itinerary included stops in the UK, France, Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands. I heard a couple of Proms concerts and two performances at the Concertgebouw, including a phenomenal new piece called The Redcrosse Knight by the young Dutch composer Xavier van de Poll. I also saw a play in Frankfurt. And most happily, I visited old friends and met new ones.

Here are some tweet threads I did about visiting the Ravel house museum, the city of Bonn (a Beethoven town that’s secretly a Schumann town), and visiting the grave of Arthur Schopenhauer.

Before crossing the Atlantic, I stopped in New York for a different recording project, where I got to see Into the Woods during its limited run on Broadway after transferring from City Center (superb, especially the orchestra) and an American Symphony Orchestra concert at Carnegie Hall (about which, more below in the Gabfest episode.)

Then it was a week-long stint guest teaching at the Pierre Monteux School. This invitation came in the wake of the passing of my dearly beloved teacher, Michael Jinbo, so it was both thrilling and surreal at the same time. I taught Brahms’ 3rd symphony, Lili Boulanger’s D’un matin de printemps, Rachmaninoff’s 3rd symphony, and two of the movements of Dvorak’s 7th. Can’t ask for much better than that.

Much of these travels were memorialized on… what else? The Classical Gabfest!

In the middle segment, Tiffany and I discuss Pierre Monteux’s Rules for Young Conductors. I’ve gone ahead and posted them here, since they’re a bit challenging to find online.

Pierre Monteux’s Rules for Young Conductors

RULES FOR YOUNG CONDUCTORS

by Pierre Monteux

EIGHT “MUSTS”

  1. Stand straight, even if you are tall.
  2. Never bend, even for a pianissimo. The effect is too obvious behind.
  3. Be always dignified from the time you come on stage.
  4. Always conduct with a baton, so the players far from you can see your beat.
  5. Know your score perfectly.
  6. Never conduct for the audience.
  7. Always mark the first beat of each measure very neatly, so the players who are counting and not playing know where you are.
  8. Always in a two-beat measure, beat the second beat higher than the first. For a four-beat bar, beat the fourth higher.

TWELVE “DON’TS”

  1. Don’t overconduct; don’t make unnecessary movements or gestures.
  2. Don’t fail to make music; don’t allow music to stagnate. Don’t neglect any phrase or overlook its integral part in the complete work.
  3. Don’t adhere pedantically to metronomic time — vary the tempo according to the subject or phrase and give each its own character.
  4. Don’t permit the orchestra to play always a boresome mezzo-forte.
  5. Don’t conduct without a baton; don’t bend over while conducting.
  6. Don’t conduct solo instruments in solo passages; don’t worry or annoy sections or players by looking intently at them in “ticklish” passages.
  7. Don’t forget to cue players or sections that have had long rests, even though the part is seemingly an unimportant inner voice.
  8. Don’t come before the orchestra if you have not mastered the score; don’t practice or learn the score “on the orchestra.”
  9. Don’t stop the orchestra if you have nothing to say; don’t speak too softly to the orchestra, or only to the first stands.
  10. Don’t stop for obviously accidental wrong notes.
  11. Don’t sacrifice ensemble in an effort for meticulous beating — don’t hold sections back in technical passages where the urge comes to go forward.
  12. Don’t be disrespectful to your players (no swearing); don’t forget individuals’ rights as persons; don’t undervalue the members of the orchestra simply because they are “cogs” in the “wheels.”

O Clavis David

Commissioned by the American Guild of Organists for the Biennial National Convention in Seattle, Washington, 2022

When I was approached about composing something for the American Guild of Organists, I was presented with a slate of options from a solo organ work to a one-act theatrical piece to a church anthem. I naturally gravitated towards an anthem, since I’m much more comfortable in the world of choral music than organ music.

I was lucky enough to be paired for this project with St. Mark’s Cathedral, the seat of the Episcopal diocese of Western Washington. The cathedral has a major reputation in the world of church music, notably for its Sunday evening Compline service, but also for its annual “O Antiphons“ service, which is sort of like an alternative Lessons & Carols.

Because this is one of their signature services, it was decided that they would recreate it for the AGO convention, in spite of the fact that it’s an Advent service and the conference was in the middle of July. I discussed the options for an anthem for this service with the cathedral’s music director, Michael Kleinschmidt. What he told me is that there was one “O Antiphon” that was harder to program than all the others: O Key of David.

The idea behind the O Antiphons (familiar from the hymn “O Come, o come Emmanuel“) is that Jesus is described in a sequence of seven metaphors: “O Wisdom,“ “O leader of the House of Israel,“ “O Root of Jesse,“ etc. The Key of David reads as such:

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

So here, Jesus is viewed as the key that will unlock the gates and set the prisoners free. There’s many ways to interpret this, but it seemed clear to me that this could be a very strong prison abolition / social justice piece. So I went hunting for other biblical passages that pertain to this theme. I found several in the psalms, but I also found some early modern Christian literature that really piqued my interest.

Allow me to introduce you to Elizabeth Hooten (1600–1672), described by Wikipedia thus: “She was beaten and imprisoned for propagating her beliefs; she was the first woman to become a Quaker minister.“

This took me down a major-league wormhole of research, but suffice to say, she led an even more fascinating life than that blurb would lead you to believe. She also wrote several letters from prison decrying the conditions and the widespread imprisonment of innocent people who were locked up behind bars (or in many cases, those who may have been locked up because of unjust laws.)

She was a regular 17th century Martha Stewart!

The text:

          Ps. 102: 1      Hear my prayer, O Lord and let my crying come unto thee.

          Ps. 142: 6     O deliver me from my persecutors for they are too strong for me.

           Hooton      O thou that art set in authority to do justice and judgment, and to let the oppressed go free, these things are required at thy hands. 

       Ps. 102: 20      To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those appointed to death;

           Hooton      I labored to lay before the king the grievances of the innocent, and hither have I come time after time, for equity and for justice.

   Isaiah 22: 22      And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; 

and he shall open it.

           Hooton      Do not join with them that would persecute and wrong the innocent, for if thou dost thou wilt wrong thy one soul.