Falling for Fall

The date of my previous blog entry should reveal that I’ve been busy. Well, “busy” may actually be an understatement.

I must admit that adjusting to life in Oregon has been somewhat rough, though I think I’m finally beginning to adapt. It’s been especially helpful to live in Oregon during the fall season, as it is very lovely this time of year. One day, I walked outside from an on-campus building and witnessed a spectacular natural event. Rain began to pour from a tiny lone cloud, surrounded by a lustrous midday sun and blue sky. The raindrops, fat and bulbous, sparkled in the sunlight. On their way to the ground, the heavy drops tugged bright red, gold, and orange leaves off of the trees. The combination of light, color and movement made for a dazzling show, courtesy of mother nature.

Not only has fall been beautiful, it’s also been productive. In the beginning of November, I traveled to New York City to hear Choral Chameleon sing the East Coast premiere of Giant Mirror and the world-premiere performance of Sempiterna. The performance was wonderful, and I was especially impressed by their deeply felt rendering of Sempiterna’s third movement, “In pace.” The group is comprised of remarkable individuals, and each time I see them, I enjoy their graciousness and enthusiasm. Seeing them is as delightful as hearing them.

Yale University's Battell ChapelWhile on the East Coast, I traveled to Yale University to hear Vance George conduct combined college choirs at the National Collegiate Choral Organization convention. They, too, sang “In pace,” and performed well. It was an incredible experience to make my East Coast debut in New York and at Yale within a week’s time.

I’ve made a great deal of progress on Such Beautiful Things, and composed two new choral works: “Kyrie” from Missa Antiqua and Stars. The “Kyrie” was brought to life in a reading session with Revalia at the University of Oregon. Revalia is an all-male choir from Estonia, in residence at the university in mid-November. I conducted my reading session, which went well. It was great to musically and personally interact with the singers, and it was an honor to conduct and write for them. Also, working with Revalia’s director, Hirvo Surva, was a deep artistic experience I will cherish forever.

Just ten days ago, Downtown Detour premiered at the Oregon Composers Forum concert at the University of Oregon. Haley Engle, violinist, and Ben Krause, pianist, did an amazing job with this difficult piece. The audience seemed to like it, too, which made me happy. The entire concert was a blast, as the works of my colleagues were all high quality pieces. It was a real privilege and pleasure to be part of it.

Stars will receive its world-premiere performance in New York City tomorrow night, performed by Choral Chameleon under the direction of Vince Peterson. I’m currently on the plane to New York as I write this blog, and I am thrilled to see and hear my friends in Chameleon again!

Now I’m on Christmas break, which means I will make a lot of progress on Such Beautiful Things, and write another blog entry about Stars and my visit to New York.

Until then, Merry Christmas, and happy holidays to all!

Update from the Forest

Only two-and-a-half weeks into my career in the Pacific Northwest, and I’m gearing up for an incredibly productive time at the University of Oregon.  This past week consisted of an intense string of meetings and exams, preparing the way for next week’s first day of class.

I’ve been busy at work on Such Beautiful Things, a dramatic work for chorus, soloists, and piano four hands, to be premiered by Choral Chameleon in the spring of 2010 in New York City.  The libretto, by Tony Asaro, is a stunning literary work, and is, in and of itself, already a piece of music.  I am lucky to have landed the opportunity of this remarkable project, and I hope that my contribution does Asaro’s work justice.  As soon as I am close to finishing Such Beautiful Things, I will write more about it here.

Revalia Male Chamber ChoirMy plate o’composition is beginning to fill up rather quickly, now that I am operating within an academic environment.  There are three great projects lined up for UO composers, and we are expected to write a new composition for each.  First, the Revalia Male Chamber Choir from Estonia will be visiting the university in November.  As part of their residency, they will read works written especially for them.  We are allowed to write only two-ish minutes of music, and so my plan is to write a “Kyrie,” which will eventually become the first movement of a five movement Mass for a cappella male chorus.

Two other vocal projects ensue in the winter and spring academic quarters.  The first is a pairing of Robert Kyr’s composition students with Nicholas Isherwood’s voice studio, where composers will design songs to suit the unique voices of their vocal counterparts.  In the spring, famed soprano, Lucy Shelton, will pay a visit to the university, offering a masterclass to voice and composition students.  Again, composition and voice students will pair up for this event.

Another project made its way to me from outside of the university.  My old friend and fellow composer, Abe Fabella, has asked me to compose a new work for solo organ for a recital at Loma Linda University Church in May.

All of this among many other things!

To be doing what I love in a place that supports and encourages it is a real luxury.  Here’s to a great start in beautiful Oregon!

Before I sign off, I must share some thrilling news.  My choral work, Sempiterna, was one of five compositions given “honorable mention” for the 2009 EAMA prize.  Congratulations to Stacy GarropRobert Xavier RodriguezJames Smith, and Dave Volpe for also receiving this honor.  After reading a bit more about these composers, I realized this pool of artists is extraordinary, and I am humbled to be associated with each of them.

The Sun Sets in San Francisco

As the end of my six-year stay in San Francisco draws near, the past finds its way to the present, as memories of life experienced here come to the surface. San Francisco has taught me a great deal about life and art, and the lessons learned here will certainly be taken wherever I go in the future.

I will miss its charm, its beauty, its arts scene, its warm embrace of people from all walks. Most of all, I will miss my friends, teachers, and fellow music-makers who call this place “home.”

Luckily, there’s so much to which I am looking forward, as I embark on an exciting journey, turning the page to a new and pivotal chapter. The University of Oregon is my destination, where I have been offered some incredible opportunities. I will be teaching a Finale notation course, working as a T.A. for beginning aural skills classes, and doing some directing of the two new music ensembles at the university.

Beyond Oregon, my music is finding its way to the east coast via Choral Chameleon, which will premiere three works throughout its 2009-2010 season: Sempiterna in its entirety on November 1 (in addition to a performance of Giant Mirror), a new Christmas work on December 12, and a large work for chorus, soloists, piano 4 hands, harp, percussion, and a melodic instrument on April 18. Another east coast performance will take place at the National Collegiate Choral Organization’s Third Conference at Yale University on November 5, where Vance George will conduct a multi-school choir in a performance of “In pace” from Sempiterna.

On the compositional back-burner are some exciting projects, which promise to lead to future premieres. Nearing completion is a temporarily-untitled violin sonata, written for my good friend, Valerie Tung, a Seattle-based violinist. I plan to write a chamber symphony for the Eugene Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, which will include Can’t Sit Still as a movement. For another good friend, Brett Banducci, a Los Angeles-based composer and violist, I will be writing a piece for solo viola and electronics, to be premiered/performed in Los Angeles and Oregon.

Taking a glimpse at the future, there’s a lot to look forward to!

Now looking back to the recent past, the highlight of the summer was the Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium, at which I met exceptionally talented and friendly composers, conductors, and performers. Though I was present for only six days due to a professional commitment, the experience affected me deeply on personal and artistic levels.

Can’t Sit Still was featured on one of the Symposium concerts, performed by the American Creators Ensemble, conducted by Scott J. Ordway. Because I had to leave the festival early, I unfortunately missed the premiere of the piece. I’m happy to say I got my hands on the recording, which may be listened to by pushing the play button below:

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This collection of performers did an incredible job with my rather difficult composition. In fact, they premiered 72 new works over the course of the Symposium, and they deserve a medal for such a staggering achievement! Thanks to all.

Looking back, looking forward, it all gives evidence to the fact that I have so many reasons to be grateful. These past six years in San Francisco, and the next four in Oregon, will combine to form a truly exceptional decade.

Having said all of that, it’s time to say good bye, San Francisco. Thank you for everything.