Composed March â€“ April 2020, written for Joseph Vaz.
Joseph was my student (on string bass!) in the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra for three years, and since my departure from that position, he and I have remained in touch and become good friends. His senior year of high school, we collaborated on two concerto performances, the Mozart d minor and the Gottschalk “Grand Tarantella”.
Sometime during the first year of Joseph’s master’s degree program at CCM, we started discussing the idea of my writing a piece for him and eventually settled on the idea of a sonata. He gave me lots of listening homework to fill the gaps in my knowledge about the existing repertoire, which I diligently completed, sending him regular commentary and analysis as I listened through his list.
I had not intended to compose the sonata until much later in 2020, but my work was able to begin ahead of schedule due to Covid. For very unfortunate reasons, Seattle had one of the earliest lockdowns and it quickly became apparent that we were in it for the long haul. I quickly pivoted to “composer mode” and the sonata was the first major work of what turned out to be an abnormally prolific compositional period for me.
Being thoroughly acquainted with Joseph’s virtuosity, I held nothing back, neither musically nor technically. I could not have asked for a more fulfilling collaboration, and I rank this piece among my most important instrumental works, along with my symphony and horn/viola/piano trio.
for soprano, mezzo-soprano, viola, and piano op. 40
Commissioned and premiered by Northwest Art Song: Arwen Myers, soprano; Laura Thoreson, mezzo-soprano Kenji Bunch, viola; Susan McDaniel, piano
The English text was assembled and freely adapted from speeches by and interviews with Valerie Bell (mother of Sean Bell), Gwen Carr (mother of Eric Garner), Sybrina Fulton (mother of Trayvon Martin), as well as a number of pseudonymous sources interviewed in Long Time Passing: Mothers Speak About War & Terror by Susan Galleymore, and a 1992 article from the New York Times entitled â€œParents and AIDS: Rage and Tearsâ€ by Carol Lawson.
This piece was composed for two very good friends, Andy and Mary Moran, whom I first met in the summer of 2005 at the Pierre Monteux School. Andy was attending as a conductor and horn player, Mary as a member of the viola section, which meant I got to sit next to her in orchestra all summer, which I count among the singular delights I’ve been afforded.
Andy is now Professor of Horn and Orchestral Director at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point; Mary is a musician and staff member with the Central Wisconsin Symphony. The premiere was given at the UWSP School of Music, by Mary and Andy and Janna Ernst on the piano. Shortly thereafter, I travelled to Wisconsin to give further performances (as pianist) both there and in Chicago, and we have since performed it at additional concerts as part of the ARTi Gras Festival in Central Wisconsin.