Ladies and Gentlemen, today, I am a happy composer. What makes a composer happy? Well, basically nothing – we’re all tortured, existentially-fraught philosophers in sound who see this world for the vale of tears it really is.
But occasionally one receives a very decent recording of one’s own work, and one can’t help but feel a moment of pride. Therefore, I present to you now two of my newest musical children:
I composed this piece mainly this past January for the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra; we premiered it at the end of March and recorded it at the beginning of May. Here’s an earlier essay/manifesto I wrote about it.
A suite in five movements for brass quintet, timpani and organ, composed for the Gargoyle Brass Quintet. Each movement depicts the god or goddess assigned to one of the outermost celestial bodies in our solar system (click the title above for more info thereabout.)
Cantata for SATB choir, Soprano and Mezzo-Soprano soloists, Brass Quintet, Timpani, English Handbell Choir, and Organ
I wrote this piece on a commission from the Union Church of Hinsdale, IL to celebrate the retirement of their long time Director of Music (and my one time boss), Michael Surratt.
Mike is a great guy and a really great organist, so I wanted to give him something to bite into. The church suggested I set the text of Psalm 46 (one of Mike’s favorites) and I seized the opportunity to use a translation that has fascinated me for years, namely, Young’s Literal Translation of 1862 (which you can read about on Wikipedia.) What makes this version of the bible unique is that Mr. Young, a self-educated Scotsman, translated from the Ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek without rendering said languages grammatically into Modern English. Strangely though, he still uses the vocabularic style and tense endings of the King James Version, lending the text a distinct flavor that combines the ancient and the modern.
For comparison, here is the New Revised Version of Psalm 46:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; He utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Come, behold the works of the LORD; See what desolations he has brought on the earth
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; He burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”
The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
And here is Young’s Literal Translation:
God [is] to us a refuge and strength, a help in adversities found most surely.
Therefore we fear not in the changing of earth, and in the slipping of mountains into the heart of the seas.
Roar — troubled are its waters, mountains they shake in its pride. Selah.
A river — its rivulets rejoice the city of God, Thy holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High.
God [is] in her midst — she is not moved, God doth help her at the turn of the morn!
Troubled have been nations, moved have been kingdoms, He hath given forth with His voice, earth melteth.
Jehovah of Hosts [is] with us, a tower for us [is] the God of Jacob. Selah.
Come ye, see the works of Jehovah, who hath done astonishing things in the earth,
Causing wars to cease, unto the end of the earth, the bow he shivereth, and the spear He hath cut asunder, chariots he doth burn with fire.
Desist, and know that I [am] God, I am exalted among nations, I am exalted in the earth.
Jehovah of hosts [is] with us, a tower for us [is] the God of Jacob! Selah.
I made just a few tiny adjustments to this text, mainly for musical purposes, and also because of Mike’s aversion to the use of the masculine pronoun for God. The piece was premiered in Hinsdale, IL in May of 2011, and I recorded it in Cincinnati, OH in December of the same year using funds from a Kickstarter campaign (which I discuss here.)
Astute listeners may recognize two hymn tunes which are quoted extensively (and often hidden) in the piece: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and “O God Our Help In Ages Past”. Both are paraphrases of the Psalm 46 text and favorites of Mike’s.
Anthem for Soprano and Baritone Soloists, Choir, Organ, Brass and Timpani
Here’s an anthem for Palm Sunday; the festive crowd marches in from the distance, the Savior seated atop a bumbling ass (the dotted figure in the timpani.) Voluptuous solos for soprano and baritone, and a sensible choir part.
Why does the choral score cost so much?
Because I presume that, in purchasing it, you will simply make as many copies as you need for your singers. And that’s great! Much easier than me printing and shipping a whole bunch of them and charging you per part, which would probably cost you at least twice as much and make me have to write those annoying, guilt-ridden anti-photocopying messages in my music. I live in the real world. Copy what you need, and go in peace.
Here’s me conducting the recording session. I think I was having fun that day: