Sunday, May 20, 2012

Composer Dialogue #1

Another career goal of mine (beyond TMEA) has been to introduce my choir to new music - whether it was written for them, newly published, or about to be published. I have never had a piece written for any of my choirs. I have taught newly published, about to be published, and submitted for publication music.

NOTE: I am not a composer or arranger. It is not my skill. Not every musician is a composer.

A couple of years ago, I established a relationship with a composer in the area. She gave me several pieces of music to peruse for feedback. That was a fun experience - she has an interesting view of harmony. It is not a view that I completely agree with - in terms of a middle school choir. Out of that perusal came the opportunity for my choir to read her music and record it. We recorded 2 pieces that she submitted for publication.  One of these pieces, I did suggest she take it from SA to SSA b/c her harmonies were very open in the 2 pt arrangement. This composer had a piece being published by BriLee, not one that we read or recorded, but we did use it for our 2011 UIL program. It was a lovely madrigal-type arrangement. The girls loved the piece. We invited the composer into a rehearsal to hear her piece prior to UIL. That was a lovely experience as well. I gave the composer time with the girls to talk about the piece and then they asked questions about how the composition & publication process worked. They were amazed that the process could be 2-4years long, in some cases.

In the last year, I have conversed several times with a colleague/composer in the area. He has emailed me "in process" songs for feedback. Again - this is such valuable & fun knowledge to gain. The opportunity to look at someone's original compositions - it is a tunnel of light into their brain. Or see on paper how a person hears a folksong arrangement. Fascinating.

When the TMEA invitation came, I knew I wanted to call him. I needed to start this particular process very early. In the last 5 days, we have emailed a couple of times a day regarding possibilities. I hear a medium-fast tempo folksong arrangement on my program. Does he have something in mind?

He emailed me an SSA arrangement to peruse and a couple of folksong melodies that he would like to do something with. The composed SSA arrangement has lots of open harmonies and dissonances. It's a Teasdale poem, very nature-centric with a deep, contextual question. The folksong melodies are from across the pond. One English in compound meter, the other Scottish in c minor. First thought - c minor, Scottish, yummy! And yes, I loved the melody more than the English melody. He has toyed with the English melody more than the Scottish melody in his composition process. But he is willing to see where the Scottish melody leads.

What I love about my conversations with this particular composer is that he is still in the middle school choir classroom. He understands the needs and limitations of the middle school voice. He is willing to discuss the discovery process of a composition with me. He admits that he may not be able to provide me a piece worthy of a TMEA program. I beg to differ, but I'll respect his self-awareness.

I'm not looking for anything grandiose. Don't get me wrong - I love grandiose. I love those lush, romantic, inspirational pieces that melt the heart. A piece of music that can schmaltz my heart is a winner. I'll find that piece, I'm not worried. My goal is to perform a composed piece that 1.) the composer can have published and hopefully, sell to the masses, 2.) is accessible to middle school choirs and their directors. After all, that's what I am looking for - good quality literature that is readable, teachable, and singable. But that's another conversation - Choir Library Building 101.

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