• The Gift to Sing

    Instrumentation: SATB
    Duration: 3:30
    Premiere: 04/29/2023
    Zephyrus, conductor Megan Sharp
    St. Paul’s Memorial Church
    Charlottesville, VA

    View Score | Purchase Music

    Program Note:
    The Gift to Sing is an SATB setting of the poem of that name by James Weldon Johnson – poet, novelist, major civil rights activist and more. His poem touches on the wondrous way in which singing can take us beyond our troubles and give us joy. While composing this, and finding ways to embrace these words in music, I had that same experience. The images combine plain-spokenness with imaginative use of poetic elements, as in the beautiful alliteration of ‘Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing.’ The description of music’s ability to pierce the darkness is particularly vivid, as is the increasing power ascribed to singing, from the softness of the first mention, to the strength of the last statement, suggesting how the act of singing can bring transcendence. The Gift to Sing was commissioned by Zephyrus, Central Virginia’s Early Music Vocal Ensemble, and is dedicated to them. –JS

    The Gift to Sing

    by James Weldon Johnson

    Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
    And blackening clouds about me cling;
    But oh, I have a magic way
    To turn the gloom to cheerful day¬–
    I softly sing.

    And if the way grows darker still
    Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing,
    With glad defiance in my throat,
    I pierce the darkness with a note,
    And sing, and sing.

    I brood not over the broken past,
    Nor dread whatever time may bring;
    No nights are dark, no days are long,
    While in my heart there swells a song,
    And I can sing.

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  • Bialik-inspired Trio for the Atar Piano Trio

    The Jerusalem-based Atar Piano Trio, directed by pianist Ofer Shelley, has commissioned a trio for their new Bialik-inspired program. Rather than create a song, I am composing a piano trio called To the Bird From a Distant Land, inspired by Bialik’s iconic poem To the Bird, written when the poet was just 19. The bird forms the connecting link from the narrator’s home in the harsher climate of Europe, to the land of Israel, though neither location is mentioned specifically. While the narrator nonetheless wonders whether some of the difficulties of his current situation are to be found there as well, the dream of this land, and the hope for a peaceful, welcoming existence there are central.

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  • A Program of Judith’s Flute Music at the NFA in Phoenix

    An entire  program of Judith’s flute music is set for August 6 at the National Flute Association Convention in Phoenix, AZ. Four flutists are participating: Patricia Spencer, Lisa Bost, Sarah Brady and Leonard Garrison. They will be performing Fasting Heart, Penelope’s Song, Gabriel’s Wing and For the Fallen, combing acoustic and electroacoustic music before performing Grito del Corazón, for flute quartet and electronics.

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  • Cellist Sophie-Justine Herr to Record For the Birds

    The distinguished cellist Sophie-Justine Herr. based in Frankfurt am Maim will record For the Birds this spring. She is the third cellist to record this homage to birds,  following New York-based  cellist Madeleine Shapiro and Mexico City-based cellist Iracema de Andrade. The album will also feature music by Saariaho, Pagh-Paan, Fábregas and Grebchenko. Inspired by the birds of Yellowstone, For the Birds is both an homage to these amazing creatures and a call to do what we can both as individuals and as a society to save them, as their numbers have dramatically declined. Here is a link for more information about the piece, and here is one to the discography page you can follow to streaming services.

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  • How is Your Heart Today

    Instrumentation: SATB
    Duration: 3:30
    Commission: Atlanta Young Singers
    Premiere: 3/25/2023
    Atlanta Young Singers, conducted  by Paige Mathis
    The Church at Ponce & Highland
    Atlanta, GA

    View Score | Purchase Music

    How is Your Heart Today?, commissioned by Atlanta Young Singers, grew directly from several zoom meetings with the choristers, conductor Paige Mathis as well as terrific staff facilitators. I had mentioned that I wanted to compose a piece that spoke to an issue that was strongly on the minds of the choristers and Paige Mathis kindly organized three sessions. They involved discussions of topics the choristers were thinking about, explorations of found sounds and of vocal sounds. The topic that emerged most vividly was the COVID pandemic and its multiple effects on their lives: what they missed, what they wished for. I created the lyrics after hearing their thoughts, including the phrase “How is your heart today?” spoken by one of their friends.  I also want to thank my dear friend, the distinguished poet Barbara Golberg, for her creative inspiration

    How is Your Heart Today?
    by Judith Shatin

    How is your heart today?
    My heart feels heavy, it’s beat is unsteadyBoom, boom, boom, boom,
    I miss my friends, I miss their touch
    This virus has stolen way too much!

    Boom, boom, boom, boom,
    Can’t visit my family, they might get sick,
    Just have to stay home, there’s no quick fix.

    Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta,
    Now we’re up to Omicron,
    I want you gone, I want you gone!

    How is your heart today?
    My heart feels locked up,
    The key thrown away.
    Boom, boom, boom, boom

    I’m tired of staring all day at a screen,
    And yet I’m already beginning to dream

    That when this is over, and I hear you say
    “How is your heart today?”
    My answer will be “Now my heart sings,”

    Boom, boom, boom, boom
    “Now my heart sings, it soars takes wing,
    Hear my heart sing, sing, sing.” –JS

    © 2022 Wendigo Music (BMI) All Rights Reserved

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  • New Recording: Come Live With Me

    Opera star Aleksandra Kubas-Kruk and violist Szymon Kruk have just released their extraordinary album Impressions, for soprano & viola. It includes my Wedding Song, now titled Come Live With Me, in the scoring for soprano and viola. Other instrumentations are also available, pairing soprano or mezzo with alto flute, clarinet, English horn (the original), viola and cello. The album also features music by Hindemith, Diamond, Beamish, Kancheli, Lefanu, Thomas and Wislocki and is available on multiple streaming services. Perfect for an engagement party or wedding! More info here.

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  • La Frontera for Soprano, Mezzo or Tenor

    Instrumentation: Soprano, Mezzo or Tenor  and piano
    Duration: 4:30

    View Soprano Score | View Mezzo Score | View Tenor score | Purchase Music

    Program Note:

    La Frontera(The Border) is a poem by an undocumented immigrant youth held in an American maximum-security detention center. Sadly, we cannot know the identity of the author due to governmental restrictions.  I was drawn to set this poem because it captures the stark realities of the immigration process as well as the powerful desire to immigrate to America. Given the frequent cruelty in the treatment of immigrants, I wanted both to bear witness to the problem and to help bring more attention to the issues of immigration.

    As the granddaughter and wife of immigrants, indeed as a citizen of the United States, I am deeply aware of both the astonishing and ongoing contributions of immigrants as well as the despicable treatment so many experience. Why do we forget our own status as immigrants or descendants of immigrants, and yet deny the status of those who descend from indigenous peoples?

    This poem, and the others published in the collectionDreaming America, were written during workshops held for immigrant youths in detention led by poet Seth Michelson. Some were created in collaboration with students from Washington and Lee University; others benefitted from visits by guest artists Jimmy Santiago Baca and Ricardo Dominguez. Larry Moffi, the publisher of Settlement House Books, brought the book Dreaming America: Voices of Undocumented Youth in Maximum Security Detention to fruition and kindly granted permission to set this poem to music. Profits from the book sales are donated to the Detained Children’s Program of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition (www.caircoalition.org), to whom I will also donate profits.

    La Frontera started as a choral piece, but I decided to compose versions for soprano, mezzo or tenor and piano to further amplify the voice of the author. I have reshaped each in relation to the timbral and tessitura of the vocal types. For more information visit www.judithshatin.com.

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  • Nah, Nah

    Instrumentation: Piano
    Duration: 2:30
    Premiere: May 18, 1971
    Judith Shatin
    Douglass College, New Brunswick, NJ
    Premiere, Revised Version:
    David Oei
    Online performance 9/8/2020

    View Score | Purchase Music

    Nah, Nah is a revised and retitled version of Giocare, originally composed for my senior recital in 1971 at Douglass College, where I gave the first composition recital in the school’s history. I first titled it Giocare, the Italian verb to play, but when I came back to the piece and revised it in 2020, I wanted the title to reflect the nature of the type of play, the child’s mocking chant found in so many different cultures. I was fascinated by the cultural stretch of this chant as well as its links with tunes such as “Ring Around the Rosie.” The chant pops up in various guises throughout this short piece. –JS

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  • Penelope’s Song (Clarinet)

    Instrumentation: Amplified clarinet and electronics
    Duration: 9:07
    Premiere: 7/26/2019
    Andrea Cheeseman
    James Cox Auditorium – Alumni Memorial Building
    Appalachian State University
    Boone, NC

    Program Note:
    Penelope’s Song is a tribute to Penelope, Queen of Ithaca and wife of Odysseus. It was inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, which tells of the travails of Odysseus, of his ten years at war in Troy, and then, due to the sea-god Poseidon’s wrath, for another ten. Scant attention is paid to Penelope, left waiting for all that time, with many greedy and arrogant suitors attempting to woo her to become king. To stave them off she devised excuses. She said she would take no suitor until she finished weaving a shroud for her husband’s aged father, Laertes. But, since she unraveled at night what she wove by day, she made no progress. This piece sings of her, giving voice to her experience and response to her own challenges. I created the electronics from recordings I made of Charlottesville weaver Jan Russell working on her wooden looms. I processed and shaped these, weaving a new sonic fabric, and then treated the acoustic and digital elements as warp and weft of a new tapestry. Originally composed for viola and electronics, this version was commissioned by and is dedicated to Andrea Cheeseman who recorded it on her album Somewhere. Additional versions exist for flute, soprano sax, violin, viola, and cello. – JS

    Press Quote:
    “…the piece exhibits a vivid and attractive personality, giving good evidence of Shatin’s musical imagination.” –Fanfare

    Read the backstory of Penelope’s Song

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  • Zephyrus Commissions The Gift To Sing

    Zephyrus, the outstanding Charlottesville-based vocal ensemble, has commissioned a setting o fThe Gift to Sing, by poet/novelist and important Civil Rights activist James Weldon Johnson to premiere on April 29, 2023 at  7:30 p.m. in St. Paul’s Church in Charlottesville, VA.  Text choice was a wonderfully collaborative process. Members of the chorus and I both suggested wonderful poetry, and in the end we all agreed on this one.  Primarily performers of Renaissance music, the choir’s  vocal blend also lends itself to contemporary music and they have performed a variety, including music by  Tarik O’Regan, Ola Gjeilo and Ivan Moody. You can hear their rendition of Benedicams Domino by Michael Praetorius here.

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