So, after the whirlwind that was this past academic year, I decided to retire from college teaching a year earlier than planned. I should say semi-retired because getting back into the classroom, eventually, is still part of my plan. For now, I needed a break and time to focus on writing and getting a number of back burner projects up and running. To make this respite real, I also moved back to my hometown in Western Pennsylvania. So, hello ACDA Eastern Division! Looking forward to getting to know you.
ACDA Nationals (Feb 27 – 29) was once again a fantastic event. Lots of music and lots of fun. Always great to catch up with friends and make new ones. I was thrilled with the world premieres of Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child and Everyone Sang. Dedication was a pure joy. Some of the best singing I’ve every heard.
From Kansas City it was off to Paris for three weeks to prepare for the world premiere of STABAT MATER (April 29 & 30). It was a treat and an honor to work with the Paris Choral Society, The Choir of the American Cathedral and the Paris Chorals Society Orchestra. Two performances and two standing ovations. Thank you, Paris. Can’t wait until we do it again.
From Paris it was off to Toronto to hear the Canadian premiere of THE SEVEN LAST WORDS OF CHRIST (April 5) performed by the Saint Michael’s Choir School boy’s choir, directed by Bryan Priddy. I have never heard a boy’s choir of this caliber. They left me in tears. I’ll never forget that experience. I hope to have the recording soon to share with all of you.
From Toronto it was off to Los Angeles for the L.A. Choral Lab production SHAKESPEARE IN SONG (April 6&7). They premiered three works that I wrote specifically for them and this event: If Music be the Food of Love, How Like a Winter Has My Absence Been, and No Longer Mourn For Me When I Am Dead. It was an amazing production complete with actor and staging. Tastefully done and a thrill to hear my music woven into such a spectacularly performed production!
Off to Natchitoches, Louisiana! A week of rehearsals for the world premiere of FALLING STARS (May 2) for choir, strings, clarinet, harp and piano. Northwestern State University has something very special going on. Such great singing and playing – and friendly. . . very friendly. It was a delight to spend that much time with my friend and director, Nic Cummins, and the
performance was breathtaking. Met with a standing ovation, I’m still reeling from that. NSU, you were so good to me. Thank you, thank you.
To bring the spring season to an end, it was an overwhelming experience to be at Carnegie Hall on June 16 for the world premiere of DREAMCATCHER – A SYMBOL OF UNITY as the closing piece for Reflections on Unity, a concert of music featuring a number of choirs and a wind ensemble. All 350 singers and 70 instrumentalists joined forces at the end for DREAMCATCHER. The stage was full, singers were also surrounding the audience and the descant soprano line was sung from the fourth tier balcony. It was an emersion like no other. Spectacular!
Of course there are pictures all over my Facebook page of all of these events. I hope you take time to check them out. Watch for announcement of when this music is available to hear. Now, it’s finally summer break!
Before I began the 2018-19 academic year - my 25th at Bellarmine University - I decided to jump on the early retirement train. Teaching has been incredibly rewarding. My students inspire me, they keep me on my game, and I’ve met scores of inspiring people in the music industry, many of whom have become dear and life-long friends. I can without hesitation say that my years in academia, as a student and a teacher, have contributed the most to my career and success as a composer. This spring I will be on sabbatical and then I will return for one more year. The next chapter starts on May 15, 2020.
One of my favorite Renaissance “gems” is The Silver Swan by Orlando Gibbons. It’s fun to sing, beautiful and moving to listen to, and a great study resource for theory and composition students. It has long been a fantasy of mine to set this text and I’m thrilled to have done it for Nic Cummins and the Northwestern State University Chamber Choir. They’ll premiere it on October 29 at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. I was sure to subtly pay homage to Orlando in my setting. I never grow tired of hearing that piece.
It’s ACDA official – I have two new octavos being premiered and another being performed at the conference in Kansas City. Justin Miller and the Westminster Chorus will premiere Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child – written for them of course, and Philip Brown and the Angelica Cantanti Youth Choirs/Treble Choir will premiere Everyone Sang, also written specifically for them. Jeff Johnson included Dedication in the Men’s Honor Choir program. If you’re there, you might find me at the Hal Leonard and National Concerts booths.
March 29 & 30 at the American Cathedral of Paris. I’m over-the-moon excited to have written this 45-minute work for my friends The Paris Choral Society and The American Cathedral Choir and Youth Choir. Ironically, the director of these groups, Zach Ullery, is a Kentucky native and a graduate of the University of Kentucky. But we never met in the states. Through mutual friends we became acquainted through social media and immediately began to brainstorm about a collaboration. And now it’s happening. The piece is scored for the three combined choirs (each getting a little of their own limelight), strings, 3 trombones and clarinet. I’ll be in Paris the last two weeks in January to attend a few rehearsals, then back for the month of March. If you’re traveling somewhere close by, please let me know!