They nailed it. More premieres below!
Check out Accord Treble Choir premiering my setting of Walt Whitman's "To Soar in Freedom and in Fullness of Power," June 9 in New York City. (It's less than 3 minutes.)
They nailed it. More premieres below!
[Newsletter readers, view in browser to hear streaming audio, or download here. About 6 min. long]
The Albany (CA) High School vocal department, led by director Mary Stocker, commissioned me to write two pieces for them this year. The first, The Gift to Sing, is a soul-pop tune premiered in March by the AHS "All-Choir" (i.e., all the singers in the dept.—a big group!)
The second, Our Names, is a whole different animal. Sung by the more select Chamber Singers, in a more classical (but still contemporary) style, the text for 'Our Names' was penned by a student in the ensemble, Harpreet Kaur.
Lucky for me, the Chamber Singers professionally recorded several pieces this spring, and 'Our Names' was one of them.
You can download the recording for free on the Albany High Vocal Department website. Their work is thoughtful, precise, and profound—far beyond their years. I'm very proud and grateful to have worked with them.
More on the piece, including text, here.
This past year, Pacific Edge Voices became the first choir to perform the entirety of my choral cycle Hymns from a Meadow (poems by Robert Frost).
I penned some thoughts on the piece for PEV's blog ahead of their spring concerts, in which they beautifully performed A Prayer in Spring and gave the world premiere of Rose Pogonias.
Accord’s director, Liz Geisewite, sang soprano in the premiere of “A Prayer in Spring” last summer at the Choral Chameleon Institute. She commissioned me to write this piece for her fantastic ensemble of nine women, and specifically for this concert, titled On Wings. New Yorkers, I hope you can make it to a show!
The Albany High School combined choir successfully premiered “The Gift to Sing” on March 28. I like this recording I made at a late rehearsal, with director Mary banging out the piano part and her very talented students still getting the hang of their parts. It’s raw in a good way.
I'm pleased to announce that I've been commissioned by the Oakland Symphony Chorus for a 20-minute work for full chorus and chamber orchestra. The work will premiere on April 13, 2019 (yes, that's next year), at a venue TBD in Oakland, CA.
The Symphony Chorus is directed by Lynne Morrow, whose name you may recognize as the director of my frequent co-conspirators Pacific Edge Voices. Lynne approached me with a fascinating concept for a multi-movement work: you can read all about it here.
If you go back with me all the way to my rock opera days, you know I love a good epic. I think this one promises to fall squarely into that category. Please save the date and come join me for the unveiling!
And having the choral experience I missed the first time around (when I was busy playing guitar in the jazz band—and my rock band, the immortal Flibbertigibbet).
This spring will see the premiere of three commissions I’ve been busy composing for high school choirs. More details forthcoming, but suffice it to say, I am very excited to be writing for some seriously talented students. Quick performance info:
March 20, 2018
Premiere of 'Voices from the Freedom March' (mash-up arrangement of six iconic spirituals)
Sunset High School Concert Choir, Portland, OR
Christopher Rust, director
March 28, 2018, 7:00pm
Premiere of 'The Gift to Sing' (poem by James Weldon Johnson)
Albany High School All-Choir, Mary Stocker, director
Albany Veteran’s Memorial Building
1325 Portland Ave., Albany, CA
Free admission (donations graciously accepted)
Commission for Albany High School Concert Choir, text and more precise info TBD
A composer-led choir will be performing my setting of Robert Frost’s “A Prayer in Spring” this Wednesday at San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I’ll be there—hope you can also make it on short notice. The details:
Wednesday, January 24, 7:30pm
SF Conservatory Recital Hall
50 Oak St., San Francisco
'A Prayer in Spring' was the piece I developed at the Choral Chameleon Institute this past summer, and will be conducted by one of my fellow composers from the Institute, Bryan Lin.
If you miss this one, you can hear 'A Prayer in Spring' (along with the world premiere of 'Rose Pogonias') this April 12 and 15 at Pacific Edge Voices’ spring concerts in SF and Berkeley!
Purchase your tickets to hear Pacific Edge Voices perform two pieces from my new choral cycle, Hymns from a Meadow. One is a world premiere, the other a West Coast premiere; I hope you will come share in the birth of these new works!
Thursday, December 7, 7:30pm
The Green Room, 401 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco
(Mindy and I will be attending this one)
Friday, December 8, 7:30pm
The Crowden School, 1475 Rose St, Berkeley
The Hymns bring together four sublime Robert Frost poems to depict an imagined meadow in northern New England as it changes through the four seasons. (PEV will be performing the remaining two Hymns in their spring concert.)
Along with works by Copland, Lauridsen, and others, December's winter-themed concert will include:
In Hardwood Groves (World Premiere)
A mezzo-soprano soloist stands in for the poet, watching the autumn leaves fall and pondering nature’s endless cycle of death, decay, and rebirth. The chorus chants the relentless fall of the leaves, “over and over again,” and underlines the central message of the poem with a solemn refrain: “They must go down…They must go down into the dark decayed."
Stars (West Coast Premiere)
Written in the depths of winter, Frost’s stars “countlessly congregate/O’er our tumultuous snow”. They watch humanity dispassionately, “like some snow white Minerva’s snow-white marble eyes,” sharpening the already keen edge of the night’s “wintry winds.”
Pacific Edge Voices, under Lynne Morrow's direction, puts together very engaging programs and sings them beautifully. They've been performing my work for ten years now, including a number of premieres, and I'm delighted they've chosen to sing the Hymns.
Listen/watch as PEV performs my arrangement of "Hawai'i '78" this past June.
I arranged Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's haunting rendition of this song for Pacific Edge Voices to sing as a full group (SATB with soloists) in this year's Jazz & Pop concerts. Here is a recording and video of one of their excellent performances: June 11 at the Berkeley City Club.
Composer Michael T Roberts shares his thoughts on writing, playing, and teaching music. Comments? Please e-mail Mike.