Zephyrus, the outstanding Charlottesville-based vocal ensemble, has commissioned a piece for their upcoming season. Text choice is a wonderfully collaborative process with them, and remains one of my favorite aspects of composing. Primarily performers of Renaissance music, their 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.
- Zephyrus Choral Commission
- ‘Tis You (SSA Divisi & Piano)Continue reading →
Instrumentation: SSA divisi & piano
I originally composed ‘Tis You, a setting of Amy Lowell’s poem, Listening, for the Centennial of Douglass College, my Alma Mater. Created for the Voorhees Choir, originally the women’s chorus of Douglass College (now of Rutgers University), the premiere took place on 12/2/17 during the Choir’s fall concert, and on 12/3/17 during the Yule Log Ceremony at the Voorhees Chapel on the Douglass campus. Long a fan of Lowell’s poetry, I found this one in An Anthology of Great U.S. Women Poets 1850-1990. I love the way the poem speaks of the internal music of our beings, the meaning of our individual contributions, and also our role in the larger ocean of life. After the premiere, I shortened the piece in its original scoring and composed this version for SSA divisi and piano. –JS
- The Best Angel in Heaven (2 part treble chorus or duo and piano)Continue reading →
The Best Angel in Heaven 2-part Chorus, MIDI
Instrumentation: 2-part Treble Chorus or duo & piano
Date of Composition: 2020
I composed The Best Angel in Heaven in the cruel month of April 2020, in memory of Sandra Santos-Vizcaino, the wonderful third-grade teacher at PS 9 in Brooklyn, NY who passed away from Covid-19. I did so because I was so touched by the memory page devoted to her, marked by the love and sadness of so many whose lives she touched. She was clearly not only a great teacher but a woman of extraordinary character, kindness, and compassion. I wish I could have known her. I have based the lyrics on phrases drawn from these memories of love for her and of distress at losing so dear a person. There is also a version of this song available for unison chorus or soloist and piano. -JS
Text: The Best Angel in Heaven
You are my fav’rite teacher.
You will stay with me forever.
I will always love and miss you.
I will love you no matter what, no matter what.
You are the kindest, smartest, funniest,
You are the best teacher ever.
You are the best angel in Heaven,
Angel in Heaven.
You loved us all equally,
We were part of your family.
We miss your warm hugs,
We miss your sweet treats.
You will always be in my heart.
It is the hardest loss,
The hardest loss.
You were always a hugger,
You were like our owl.
Always a leader,
You were like our own Athena,
You are safe in star clan now.
You are safe in star clan.
You are the best angel in Heaven,
- Come Live with Me: Soprano VersionContinue reading →
Mezzo Katherine Soroka & English Hornist Mark DuBois
Instrumentation: Soprano and English horn (or alto flute, or clarinet, or viola)
Grey Hills Ensemble
University of Alabama,
Come Live with Me (formerly called Wedding Song) is a setting of verses from Christopher Marlowe’s A Passionate Shepherd To His Love, drawn from the earliest printed version in the anthology titled The Passionate Pilgrim, published in 1599; the only variant is the addition of the word ‘come’ at the start, characteristic of later iterations. The text inspired a lyrical melody with a yearning quality, and a countermelody that gently circles and sometimes joins with the other. Originally scored for soprano and English horn, it is also available for mezzo, as in the recording here. In addition, you can now choose from versions with the instrumental part scored for alto flute, clarinet, viola, or cello in addition to the English horn. This song has been performed in both concert settings and at weddings.
Live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
And all the craggy mountains yield.
There will we sit upon the rocks,
And see the Shepherds feed their flock,
By shallow Rivers, by whose falls
Melodious birds sing Madrigals.
There will I make thee a bed of Roses,
With a thousand fragrant poses,
A cap of flowers, and a Kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of Myrtle.
A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With Coral Clasps and amber studs,
And if there pleasures may thee move,
Then live with me, and be my Love.
- Rising on the Wings of Dawn: ViolaContinue reading →
Instrumentation: Solo viola
Premiere: Violist Ayn Balija
Old Cabell Auditorium
University of Virginia
Rising on the Wings of Dawn is an image drawn from Psalm 139. I have been partial to this psalm for a long time, and previously created another piece inspired by it for soprano and organ called And Night Will Shines as Day. It seemed especially apt while the covid pandemic was raging and we were in a time of great sorrow to return to these comforting images of the intimacy and ubiquity of God.
The structure of Rising on the Wings of Dawn rises from the low to high across the strings and from low pitches to harmonics. The overtone series itself creates a magical vibration while individual harmonics create a glowing shimmer. Originally scored for solo violin, this version was composed for violist Ayn Balija and premiered on March 27, 2022, in Old Cabell Hall at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA.
- Blue AirContinue reading →
Blue Air is a video collaboration between Shatin and artist SoHyun Bae. They first met at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts where they were studio neighbors who were moved by each other’s art. The current project began with a conversation at SoHyun’s studio, with Judith recording her painting as well as their conversation. Blue Air itself began as an extended conversation with SoHyun sending paint marks to Judith, to which she responded with digital music, with the earlier recording as a key sonic source. She also drew on additional recordings that reflect her ongoing exploration of the enveloping sonic world, from chance encounters, such as the clink of glasses she recorded in Arezzo, to the spoken word, to delicate sounds of violin harmonics and a variety of extended techniques. SoHyun in turn arranged pain marks that responded to the sound as she worked on her Nature of Water series exploring the precariousness and fragility of life. The process was collaborative and iterative, finding ways to speak to one another through image and music. Finally, they merged, as described in Edith Wharton’s poem A Meeting, where they ‘…drink the blue transcendent air together….’
- Autumn WayContinue reading →
Instrumentation: Solo Cello
Commission: String Poet
String Poet Studio Series
Long Island Violin Shop
Huntington, Long Island
Autumn Way, for solo cello, was commissioned by String Poet, an online journal with a Studio Series hosted by the Long Island Violin Shop in Huntington, NY. String Poet ran a poetry competition and paired each winner with a composer commissioned to create music inspired by their poetry. I composed mine in response to Richard Meyer’s poignant and beautifully wrought poem, The Autumn Way. Suzanne Mueller premiered it on 9/23/2014 on the Studio Series.
- Ivano Ascari Plays Hearing the CallContinue reading →
Hearing the Call, for antiphonal pairs of trumpet & snare drum, was performed on the program Fanfares For the New Auditorium at the Conservatorio di Musica Francesco Antonio Bonporti in Trento, IT by ace trumpeter Ivano Ascari and conservatory students.Commissioned and premiered by the National Symphony, as part of their Hechinger Series, Hearing the Call was recorded by trumpeter Jeffrey Silberschlag and colleagues on the Sonora label on the CD titled Hearing the Call. Also on this celebratory concert was music by Stravinsky, Britten, Ewazen, Nagel and more.
- Atlanta Young Singers CommissionContinue reading →
The Atlanta Young Singers has commissioned a piece for their March 2023 spring program. The theme and some of the vocal elements have emerged from three interactive zoom meetings led in collaboration with their conductor Paige Mathis. All of the chorister age groups have been represented and the singers have contributed ideas for the topic. We have also played with found sounds, vocal techniques and different ways of notating non-traditional sounds, as well as experimenting with rhythms and harmony. It has been inspiring to work with this lively group and wonderful to have this level of collaboration!
- Violinist Wendy Case Records Rising on the Wings of DawnContinue reading →
Blue Griffin is releasing The Tiger and the Clover, a CD of new works by diverse composers for solo violin and violin and electronics featuring violinist Wendy Case. This includes my Rising on the Wings of Dawn for solo violin. It was a joy collaborating with Wendy during the compositional process and experiment with timbral shading as I found ways to metaphorically encompass the sense of delicate rising that the image suggests. The title is taken from Psalm 139 and is the second piece I have composed based on this psalm. The first was And the Night Will Shine As Day, for soprano and organ. I am drawn to the surrounding and encompassing imagery, here “the wings of morning” and in my earlier piece, that “darkness will shine as day.”