Less Than a Week Before Christmas

from Nativity, Domenico Ghirlandaio, c.1480

from Nativity, Domenico Ghirlandaio, c.1480

We’re counting down the days on Now Is the Time, Saturday, December 20th at 9 pmLess Than a Week Before Christmas is David Golub’s work for chorus and orchestra: about the cold, about a friend. Morten Lauridsen contemplates the wonder of animals at the nativity manger in one of our time’s most-sung pieces, O Magnum Mysterium.

Composer Jennifer Higdon becomes her own poet for Deep in the Night, pondering “this season of love with full brilliant lights.” Daron Hagen combines two melodies we recognize with a beautiful one we don’t—because he just wrote it—in a work for choir with cello, At Bethlehem Proper. Rounding out the choral works on the program is While All Things Were in Quiet Silence by Ned Rorem.

Two instrumental works find their way in, though. Advent has the same feeling that imbues Yearning, the lovely work for violin and strings by Shulamit Ran, dedicated to Yehudi Menuhin. For solo guitar is the suite of Rick Sowash, helping us count down the days, For an Old Friend at Christmas.

from Rick Sowash: Guitar Suite: For an Old Friend at Christmas 

PROGRAM:
Peter Golub: Less Than a Week Before Christmas
Morten Lauridsen: O Magnum Mysterium
Shulamit Ran: Yearning
Jennifer Higdon: Deep in the Night
Rick Sowash: Guitar Suite: For an Old Friend at Christmas
Daron Hagen: At Bethlehem Proper
Ned Rorem: While All Things Were in Quiet Silence

Every Saturday night at 9 Eastern, Kile Smith brings you Now Is the Time, all styles of contemporary concert music by living American composers on WRTI’s all-classical stream. Just go to wrti.org and click on the Listen: Classical button at the top of any page. In the Philadelphia area with an HD radio? Dial us up at 90.1 FM-HD2, or find all the frequencies here, from the Jersey Shore to the Poconos to Harrisburg to Delaware. Thanks for supporting American contemporary music on WRTI! 

Cello concerto parts are finished

HelenaMarinescu

Almost as good as hitting the double bar on the full score of the new cello concerto, And Seeing the Multitudes, is to hit the double bar on the last part to be extracted. They’re all finished now and off to the orchestra librarian. As if composing isn’t obsessive enough, copying parts is a preciously inner delight. Of course, the software “makes” the parts automatically, even as you construct the score, but the parts are never good. They’re quite awful, actually, out of the box, so there’s a good bit of manual labor needed to get them into shape.

Which I love doing, ever since I did this, with ink and paper, when I started at the Fleisher Collection. People who do this for a living—engravers—have my unfettered respect. Figuring out page turns, cues, overall spacing, whether to place phrases on one stave or where to split them… goosebumps, I’m telling you. And did I love putting the music for all three percussionists into one part, or what?

Now, okay, now I can get the Christmas tree.

Cellist Ovidiu Marinescu performs this with the Helena Symphony, conducted by Allan R. Scott, on January 31st. And Seeing the Multitudes is based on the Beatitudes, is for full orchestra, is in one movement, and is 20 minutes long. More information about it is here.

The new Fleisher Collection curator

GaryGalvanGreat news about a place where I was fortunate to spend 30 years, the last 18 as curator, and great news about a person I’ve been happy to know since 2006. Gary Galván will be a wonderful curator of the Fleisher Collection, the world’s largest lending library of orchestral performance material. As Gary’s picture testifies, it’s at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

From the news release:

The Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music is pleased to announce the appointment of its new and seventh curator, Dr. Gary Galván. A graduate of the University of Florida musicology program, he came to Fleisher as a researcher and has worked with the collection as a musicologist and the digital projects coordinator since 2006. He has written and lectured extensively on the Fleisher Collection and the Symphony Club and is currently writing a biography on our founding philanthropist, “From Cradle to Grave: Edwin A. Fleisher and the Pan American Symphonic Coming of Age.”
Congratulations and welcome, Dr. Galván!

Consolation of Apollo in Philadelphia 2014 list

phillycomlogoAmong the milestones selected by David Patrick Stearns in the Philadelphia Inquirer for a year-end appreciation is The Consolation of Apollo, “an ingenious melding” of Boethius and the Apollo 8 astronauts. Along with shout-outs to my colleagues Robert Maggio and James Primosch, he rightly hails The Crossing as the impetus behind these pieces of ours: “Would these works have been written were there not a choir like this to sing them?”

It’s a great honor to be in this company. Thanks to David Patrick Stearns for this mention, and to Donald Nally and the awe-inspiring singers of The Crossing. Upcoming concerts of Consolation, with David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion, January 3rd and 4th, Chestnut Hill and Wilmington.

‘Twas the night before Christmas

SantaClaus

Santa Claus, William Holbrook Beard, 1861

Narrating tonight, on stage with the fine and quite busy Delaware Valley Wind Symphony, The Night Before Christmas by Randol Alan Bass. I’m having way too much fun with this Clement Clarke Moore poem.

It’s at the Charles Boehm Middle School, 866 Big Oak Road in Yardley, Pa. Jerry Nowak conducts. If you’re in the area and have a free night, stir yourself over at 7 pm for visions of sugarplums!

El Niño

AdamsElNinoIt’s John Adams’s Nativity oratorio El Niño on Now Is the Time, Saturday, December 13th at 9 pm. We’ll fit in as much as we can, since the concert-length work is too long for our one-hour show.

Adams says that the birth of his daughter in 1984 was like a miracle. “Four people were in the room, and then there were five,” he says, and that became the inspiration for his take on the Christmas story. Along with Latin and English, much of El Niño is in Spanish. The director Peter Sellars, who worked closely with the composer to create this, says that it’s like a triptych that cannot be seen all at once. Unfold a panel to see what’s there, and you hide another.

Dawn Upshaw, Willard White, and the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson sing alongside chorus and orchestra in this grand Christmas-time pageant.

from John Adams: El Niño 

PROGRAM:
John Adams: El Niño, excerpts

Every Saturday night at 9 Eastern, Kile Smith brings you Now Is the Time, all styles of contemporary concert music by living American composers on WRTI’s all-classical stream. Just go to wrti.org and click on the Listen: Classical button at the top of any page. In the Philadelphia area with an HD radio? Dial us up at 90.1 FM-HD2, or find all the frequencies here, from the Jersey Shore to the Poconos to Harrisburg to Delaware. Thanks for supporting American contemporary music on WRTI! 

The cello concerto is finished

HelenaMarinescu

…and a good thing, since they’re playing it on January 31st. They are cellist Ovidiu Marinescu and the Helena Symphony, conducted by Allan R. Scott. I am honored to have been commissioned to compose this in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Helena Symphony.

The name of the piece is And Seeing the Multitudes, the opening words of the passage relating the Sermon on the Mount. It is built upon the eight Beatitudes, with the chorale Herzlich lieb’ ich dir, O Herr following. It is not a well-known chorale, even among those who sing chorales, but if it is known in America, it will be in its Catherine Winkworth translation: “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart.”

It is in one movement, 20 minutes long. The instrumentation:

2+pic, 2,2,2—4,3,3,1—timp+3(incl marimba)—piano, harp—solo cello—strings

Each of the eight sections is based somehow on the chorale, so it works as variations before the theme.

My friends who allow me to talk about composition—these are a select few, self-effacing, withdrawn, and so shy that they are always changing phone numbers and would rather not inform me—know that I have a firm, one may almost say unshakable, rule about orchestration, and that is that the worth of any piece is in indirect proportion to the appearance of the glockenspiel. I confess to using a glockenspiel in this. It plays eight notes. I tried to cut it to six, but failed.

More later, as we get closer to the premiere and as I write up program notes.

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came to him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Gospel of Matthew 5:1-10

“Lord, Thee I love with all my heart” translated 1863, Catherine Winkworth (1829-1878), from
Herzlich lieb hab’ ich dir, o Herr (c.1567), Martin Schalling (1532-1608), based on Psalm 18; Bernhard Schmid, Orgelbuch, Strassburg (1577)