Monday, September 29, 2014

Young female singers are called "mousy'? Ugh!


Here is a quick post on something that was stewing a bit on Choralnet a few months ago (I wrote some of this then but forgot to post the blog!) and which I was compelled to finally respond to: this was a Choralnet post wherein a male director called his adolescent young women singers "mousy and timid". Great attitude, right? Someone called him on this language immediately, but no one had offered up any significant tools to get his mind straight on this and simply be a more skilled, more understanding choral/vocal instructor- so I finally posted the following to the thread:

I have been reading this thread for awhile, and every time I see the title, the "mousy" name-calling still galls me. Men need to try a lot harder to fathom what it is like to be a female singer at any age (but especially in the adolescent and pre-adolescent years) and be more empathetic. I think I can preach here to my fellow XY dudes since I have successfully directed a professional women's choir for 6 years, directed special summer programs for gifted SSAA singers, composed dozens of works for SA through SSAA choirs, worked directly (again with my composer hat on) with skilled directors of female choirs such as Emily Ellsworth, Janet Galvan, Lynne Gackle, Nancy Menk, and Robyn Lana just to mention a few. Please guys, become more sensitive, and here is what I REALLY want you to do to educate yourself a lot more, and have way more tools for success with your choirs:


Purchase the book "Finding Ophelia's Voice, Opening Ophelia's Heart"  by Lynne Gackle. It is full of brilliant insights into the female adolescent voice and psyche. This is required reading. The other required reading is "Conducting Women's Choirs", edited and compiled by Debra Spurgeon. There are chapters on an amazing breadth of topics by many great contributors (essentially a who's-who of the women's choir movement over the last 25 years- but especially for this subject please read the sections by Sandra Snow and Sandra Peter) which are invaluable resources for anyone who directs women either in an SSAA type ensemble or within an SATB ensemble. The Spurgeon book also contains Lori Hetzel's U of Kentucky choir in a DVD demo of all sorts of important vocal issues, plus vocalise/warmup issues. Buy these two books and sit down with them for a week or two. They are both worth it to anyone in our profession. And let's drop the term "mousy", please!




Lynne Gackle's book, published by Heritage/Lorenz:










Debra Spurgeon





Deb Spurgeon's book, published by GIA:

http://www.giamusic.com/search_details.cfm?title_id=20615


Paul Carey

www.paulcarey.net
You can see the Choralnet complete thread here:  http://www.choralnet.org/view/442443#442757




Tuesday, September 23, 2014

“until I fall dead, like all conductors.” - Frans Brüggen RIP

Back when I was a college student at the University of Illinois and Yale (and by back, I mean WAY BACK) one of my heroes was the amazing recorder player Frans Brüggen. In addition to my serious studies I had also picked up the recorder (mostly alto and sop) and it was so relaxing just to learn some little Baroque tunes (God how I loved Marin Mareis' lithe melodies) on it when I had some free time. I wasn't that good or that bad, but I certainly knew what the biggest challenges were to playing the instrument well, so every time I heard Brüggen he absolutely floored me. It wasn't necessarily the virtuosity of a flurry of 16th  notes, but his amazing expressiveness- he always knew how to take a phrase and unwrap its innermost emotions, its nuances, its semiotic meaning which cannot be put into actual words.

A young, very handsome Frans



An older Frans












I am saddened to learn of Brggen's death in late August at the age of 79. He was still performing as conductor of the Orchestra of the 18th Century and had stated a few years earlier that he would keep on making music  “until I fall dead, like all conductors.”  He was always a class act and brought so much joy to the world. RIP, dear Maestro. Here is the NY Times obit:

Frans Brüggen, a Dutch pioneer of the early music movement, a co-founder and conductor of the influential Orchestra of the 18th Century, and a virtuoso recorder player who in his youth became (literally) a poster boy for the instrument, died on Aug. 13 in Amsterdam. He was 79. His death was confirmed by Sieuwert A. Verster, who founded the ensemble with Mr. Brüggen in 1981. Their period instrument orchestra was one of the first ensembles to adopt a historically informed method of performance, in which the lush sound, vibrato-heavy string playing and sometimes ponderous tempos that were then standard were abandoned for a buoyant, leaner sound with less vibrato. 

Unlike other period ensembles, the Orchestra of the 18th Century has not strayed too far from its original focus; it has ventured into Mendelssohn, Schubert and Chopin, but not later romantics like Brahms.Mr. Brüggen had a particular affinity for conducting Beethoven, releasing two recordings of the complete symphonies and leading the “Eroica” Symphony more than 100 times.

Reviewing a 2007 performance of two Schubert symphonies and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 during one of the orchestra’s infrequent appearances in New York, Allan Kozinn wrote in The New York Times that “by keeping the brass choirs in the foreground sounding punchy in the Ninth, he tapped a vein of both novelty and visceral excitement that gave these familiar works a welcome freshness.”

The orchestra (a part-time group that tours several times a year and regularly releases recordings) was founded with an unusually egalitarian pay plan. After expenses, profits are divided equally among musicians and conductor.The orchestra recruits its members through word of mouth and never holds auditions. “We are a bit like the Rolling Stones,” Mr. Verster said in a phone interview, “always the same people.” The orchestra intends to continue to perform with guest conductors, he added. As a guest conductor himself, Mr. Brüggen worked with both Baroque and modern ensembles, including the London-based Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Amsterdam-based Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra — bringing a period practice aesthetic to his interpretations.

Mr. Brüggen had a rebellious streak and appreciated counterculture movements, both in and out of musical circles. In 1969 he supported what became known as the “Notenkrakers” (“Nutcrackers”) action, in which conservatory students and composers, unhappy with the Concertgebouw Orchestra’s conservative programming and what they saw as its elitism, disrupted a performance in Amsterdam with noisemakers and a megaphone.

Mr. Brüggen, who in 1972 founded an avant-garde recorder trio called Sour Cream, began his career as a recorder soloist and chamber musician. He elevated the instrument to star status with his brilliant, idiosyncratic approach. Some early albums came along with a poster of him, a tousle-haired young virtuoso.










Monday, September 22, 2014

Iowa ACDA creates new R and S position for self-published and independent published music

Thanks to my friend Sean Burton, I have been made aware that Iowa ACDA (a very large, forward-thinking and successful ACDA chapter) has created a new Repertoire and Standards position. Connor Koppin, a promising young composer/conductor, has been named as R and S for self-published and independently published music. This is further proof that ACDA is moving more and more toward supporting independent composers and broadcasting awareness of the gradual tilting away from the ancient, traditional publishing model in this country for music. I've written about this quite a bit (in this blog form as well as in give and take on Choralnet) and hosted a very successful interest session on the topic at the national  ACDA conference in Dallas about eighteen months ago. In case you missed it, my panel members were Reg Unterseher, Abbie Betinis, Joan Szymko, Buddy James, and Deborah Simpkin-King. Most of our audience stayed a full hour after the session ended (pretty much unheard of at an ACDA conference since there are so many other activities you can trot off to) to ask questions and kick around new ideas- it was a great day!

For Iowa ACDA  Connor will be focusing on composers who are obviously self-publishing in a professional manner (well-run websites, aiming for healthy relationships and visibility in the choral community, etc) and smallish publishers who are moving away from the old model. These publishers (would they be called niche publishers or not?) are especially becoming more aware of composer copyright issues, new distribution models, more awareness of the need to publicize the "back catalog" and not just hype new releases, and more. Here are a few of the new small, independent, forward-thinking organizations: Independent Music Publishers (or IMP, a great acronym!) which is home to Betinis, Szymko, Davd Moore, and a number of other quality composers, mostly from Minnesota, has already become quite successful. A new organization, Musicspoke, started by Kurt Knecht and Jennifer Rosenblatt, is also arriving on the scene with a great flurry of activity and attracting great attention from quality composers (Coppin himself, Andrea Ramsey, yours truly, and others). Musicspoke especially is on the forefront in regard to copyright issues- they facilitate composer/conductor relations and sell music without taking away the composers' copyright. Bravo to Musispoke for that stance.

Also up and coming is Northwest Choral Publishers which is the music of Reg Unterseher, John Muelheisen, and Karen P. Thomas. And there is also See a Dot- a new publisher in NY.

As composers and small publishers get together and discuss issues today (see below for some of Connor's thoughts) there is a wide variety of opinion about what is happening now. I think most independent composers truly dislike the old model (sign away your copyright, earn only 10%, have no say on how your music is publicized and what happens to your older pieces) but we accept the fact that the large, older companies who are in business have the right to run their companies any way they like.  A number of them are barely staying alive, for one reason or another (the sale price of a typical choral octavo has in no way kept pace with inflation over the last fifty years) and we all are music lovers- I myself have somewhat mellowed out about my feelings toward these larger companies, mostly due to my growing feebleness in old age (haha).

We also have a great champion of self-published/niche published music as our executive director of ACDA on the national level- Tim Sharp, whose own recent work Come Away to the Skies: A High Lonesome Bluegrass Mass is published and distributed by his composing partner Wes Ramsey.

Here is the full Iowa ACDA announcement. Hey, if you are a state ACDA leadership person maybe your state should be thinking about all this!

REPERTOIRE and STANDARDS
 SELF PUBLISHED WORKS

Connor Koppin
Colleagues,

My name is Connor Koppin and I have been selected to represent ICDA as the R&S Chair for Self/Independent Published works. I am so thrilled to be chairing this entirely new R&S position for ICDA. For so long, composers have turned to traditional publishers and distributors as a means to sell music. We have now come to a turning point in the world of choral publications in which some of these publishers are failing to meet the needs of composers, conductors, and educators; thus, composers are turning toward alternative means of publication, i.e. self publishing and independent publishers.
Some of the issues that are associated with using traditional publishers consist of the following:

-- Composers often only receive anywhere from 8-10% of profits from each sale, a very small amount. One could imagine it would be nearly impossible to make a living off of such wages.

-- When a composer agrees to publish a piece through an outside company, they are fully surrendering all rights to a piece of music; thus, allowing a company to make choices that may not be in said pieces best interest.

-- More often than not, publishers and distributors arrive at decisions with solely a monetarily profitable mindset, and no other factors. Therefore, regardless of how brilliant a piece of music may be, if a company decides that it won't sell 5,000 copies a year, they will refuse to publish it. This could ultimately lead to the disintegration of some of the greatest contemporary works, a lack of ability to get the piece "out there".

-- Compositions may often be accepted for publication, and then never actually made available for purchase until a significant amount time has passed. For instance, should a publisher find another piece worthy of publication, it will alter it's publication schedule, and suspend publication of another composer's work until a more "convenient" time.

These are just a few of the many problems that living composers face when they are contemplating the outcome of a piece.

Supporting living composers is one of our most important roles as music educators and in order to do so we must make an effort to turn away from our standard process of selecting repertoire and look toward a new way of buying music.

Self and independent publication are methods which better meets the needs of BOTH composers and conductors. However, it is both my fear as well as the organization's, that we as conductors suffer from a lack of knowledge regarding this new age of selling and buying music. This R&S position has been created to enlighten ICDA and its members in regards to directly supporting composers in their efforts to create a more healthy method of business. I am so proud of our ACDA chapter for recognizing the much needed attention to this area of choral music. I am excited to bring some valuable information to you all and hopefully better inform ICDA; keeping us forward-looking and a leading state chapter of ACDA.
Connor Koppin
Self Publishing R & S Chair
self-published-works@iowachoral.org
************
Connor Koppin (b.1991) is an award-winning composer and conductor of choral music. In 2013 he completed his bachelor of music education degree at Wartburg College where he studied conducting with Lee Nelson. His pieces have been performed across the United States by numerous choral ensembles in collegiate, high school, and liturgical settings. He has had pieces selected for a number of all-state festivals in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and currently has music published with both Morning Star Music and ECS publishing. He is currently working at Roland-Story High School in Story City, IA as a Choral Director and serves as the R&S Chair for Self Publishing for ICDA.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Unique Christmas/Holiday repertoire by Paul Carey

Hi choral directors! Hope your school year/concert season is off to a smashing start.

Are you still looking for "Holiday" repertoire? I've got a number of ideas for you from my catalog- both traditionally published and also published by myself.  While I am especially aiming to gain attention for my book of 18 carols for women's voices, please know that if you scroll down you will find some rep for SATB music as well! Some of those pieces below have rental orchestrations which have been very popular with audiences.

Last Fall I released "Carols, distinctive arrangements for women's voices", and it was an amazing  process to not only research and write the pieces but be my own publisher as well. I had a lot of help from many folks around the country- proofreading, choirs trying out the pieces, etc. It made me really appreciate the talent and the generosity of my musical colleagues. The collection has sold well and was just reviewed very favorably in the August 2014 Choral Journal. Scroll way down to read the review.

Thanks for reading!


 


18 New Christmas Carol Arrangements
Scored variously for SA, SSA, SSAA a cappella; some with simple instrument parts
Sacred texts in English, Latin, German, French, and Spanish
Durations from 1:30 to 5:00 each carol
Price: $15.95 per copy- FREE SHIPPING on all US and Canada orders  (please note- this is the current price- the Choral Journal mistakenly lists it at $17.95)
Order through paulcarey.net or email me at paulcarey440@yahoo.com
Also through Musical Resources, the exclusive wholesale distributor

Paypal or conventional billing available


An exciting new collection of 18 carols in new, creative settings suitable for
high school and beyond women's voices, plus also suitable for advanced treble children's choirs.


- Carols and processionals for both concert or madrigal dinner use
- A mixture of transcriptions, arrangements, and new settings of classic Christmas texts, occaisional solo, duo, and trio passages create variety for strophic carols
- Traditional English and Latin texts, plus settings in French, German, and Spanish
- A mixture of easy to more challenging carols, as well as a wide variety of moods and tempi
- Some carols have instrumental parts for one or two players (for instance harp, two flutes or other melody instruments, cello, percussion). Instrumental parts can be downloaded by clicking on the title below.
 
If anyone out there with a women's choir or youth advanced treble choir would like a TOTALLY FREE PERUSAL COPY- send me your US or Canada street address and I will get one to you. I think once you examine it, you will agree that it can be a resource you can go to year after year for December programming. Last year a number of the choirs who bought copies did 2,3,4, carols out of the book at their holiday program!


Here are some other pieces of mine which might really spice up your December programs.

Let me know if you would like any free perusal scores of these pieces. I will just highlight a few- you can view a complete listing with details, score samples, etc. of all of my many Christmas, Hanukkah, and Winter Solstice scores by visiting:

One of my holiday bestsellers is the Hanukkah song "Unending Flame" with a truly nice text (so many Hanukkah texts are awful, I think you will agree). Voicings available are SA or SABar. There is also a rental orchestration for this piece which really makes it pop.

Another bestselling piece which can be either with piano or rental orchestration  is my very dancey SSA version in mixed meters of I Saw three Ships:
http://paulcarey.net/Music/I_Saw_3_Ships.htm

If you are looking for SATB works, Nancy Menk made a very nice recording of my lyrical “Hush my Dear, Lie Still and Slumber" which you can hear:  

I also have a piece with a similar feel to it- my arrangement of “Gabriel's Message”, available in manuscript.

Finally, some pieces with brass. First up is “Christmas Bells”, which was commissioned by Edie Copley at N. Arizona University. This is big and festive (yet with a very introspective middle section)  for SATB/brass/organ/perc/handbells.  This piece is now also fully orchestrated.
The ending will ensure that your entire audience is awake:
http://paulcarey.net/Music/Christmas%20Bells.htm



The other brass piece is not as festive since the text by the brilliant Thomas Merton is generally more reflective- it's called “The Winter's Night Carol”. I don't have a good recording yet of the piece due to miking issues at performances, but I can certainly e-mail you a score if you like!


CAROL BOOK REVIEW FROM THE AUGUST 2014 CHORAL JOURNAL

Paul Carey's work as a choral composer and arranger is well acknowledged and valued.  His newest publication, Carols…for Women's Voices, takes a significant step in furthering his reputation as a composer for treble and women's voices.    Many of Carey's fine and best-selling arrangements and compositions of carols for mixed, children's, men's and women's voices are available through leading publishers such as Oxford University Press, CF Peters, Lorenz, and Roger Dean.  Yet, unlike many compilations of works by modern composers and arrangers, this distinctive collection does not contain works available through other sources or as separate folios. 

Most of the works found in this collection are arrangements of melodies or compositions upon texts from classic manuscripts and various folk sources.   Nonetheless, the recastings of these materials in Carey's hand are fresh and distinctive.  His "Personant Hodie" (from the Piae Cantiones), for example, retains the familiar tune of the work for the most part but lightens the texture with gavotte-like ritornelli and an unexpected reworking of the melody in 7/8.     Other works, such his SSA unaccompanied version of the classic "We Wish You A Merry Christmas", find a different voice through this composer's compositional wit.  As these two examples imply, the collection contains both sacred and secular carols.  In addition, these two arrangements also exemplify the suitability of some of Carey's arrangements for younger choirs.

The title of this collection is somewhat deceiving, for of the eighteen works in this collection, five are entirely new works, penned using familiar texts.  The distinctiveness of even these works can be evinced by comparing two texts that both Carey and Benjamin Britten have set:  "There is no rose of such virtue" and "Adam Lay ybounden" (perhaps most familiar as the text used for Britten's "Deo Gratias" from A Ceremony of Carols ).   The former is richly set with a nearly chantlike solo and responses by duets and a quartet that shimmer with their uses of inversional modal alterations.  The latter text is interpreted through completely new musical lenses.  The ABAB form of Carey's setting alternates between a haunting, contemplative section and a second, more rhythmically driving section.  This compositional choice musically refocuses the text on the apple's theological role, that of emphasizing the praise of the apple's acceptance and its eventual conclusion in the birth of Jesus.   These five original works alone make it difficult to overlook this collection, and underscore the fact that these arrangements can also find a home in the repertories of more advanced treble/women's choirs.

Cristobal de Morales' O Magnum Mysterium is the only work included in this collection where Carey assumes the singular role of editor.  As would be expected, Carey's edition is much more lightly edited than the classic (SSAA) Schirmer edition by Goodale, but the choice of transcribing this work a half-step higher mirrors a significant characteristic of this collection as a whole—each of these "distinctive arrangements" are sensitive to the distinct characteristics of women's voices.  The Morales is often performed in this key, as it simply resounds better and navigates the passaggi more easily.  Furthermore, such sensitivity extends to the variety of texture, styles, tempi, voicings, and languages (french, latin, spanish, german, and english) found herein.  Carey's collection is varied enough to lend variety to any program built from its offerings, yet cohesive enough to lend solidity to such a performance. (Note: This reviewer acknowledges having contributed to the translations of French texts and initial readings of some of the works in this volume.) 

The quality of these arrangements and the breadth of stylistic variety reflected in this holiday collection for treble voices is nearly unparalleled; for choral ensembles and programs of all types, and for churches with treble ensembles, this fine publication could reasonably be expected to occupy a similar place in holiday/Christmas libraries as the Oxford Book of Carols and Carols for Choirs currently hold.  Well edited by Carey and "tested" by various types of treble/women's choruses, this solid collection possesses enough musical gold to fit the needs of many types of choirs, performances, and even educational functions.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why should classical music be there for relaxation?


Here's a great article from Patrick Castillo (MPR)


OPINION: Beethoven didn't write the Eroica Symphony for your yoga class

by Patrick Castillo, Special to MPR
September 16, 2014
NEW YORK — As an advocate and practitioner of the art form, few tropes cause me greater distress than the old saw that classical music is relaxing. So Sheila Regan's recent article listing "Ten times when classical music can help you relax" got my heart rate going molto piu mosso, let me tell you. Following Regan's advice, I reached for some Mozart to help settle me down. It didn't work.
Because it's not meant to be relaxing.
With all due respect, Regan's well-intentioned article widely misses the mark in assessing the value of classical music.
The greatest music ever written — and I'm no genre partisan here: I'm talking the St. Matthew PassionA Love SupremeQuartet for the End of TimeAbbey RoadFear of a Black Planet — all of this music exists to fascinate the ear, challenge the mind, and elevate the soul. Not to be "[kept] at a low volume," as Ms. Regan suggests, "to help you drift off to sleep."

Friday, September 12, 2014

Brian Schmidt awarded 2015 conducting fellowship to Sweden

I am thrilled to share the news release below from the South Dakota Chorale in regard to their fine conductor Brian Schmidt. Bravo, Brian, and I hope you have a most rewarding time in Sweden! In addition to the Chorale, Brian is also the director of the Duke Vespers Choir at Duke University in Durham, NC. 


SDC ARTISTIC DIRECTOR AWARDED INTERNATIONAL FELLOWSHIP
 Photo: SDC ARTISTIC DIRECTOR AWARDED INTERNATIONAL FELLOWSHIP

Dr. Brian Schmidt, Artistic Director of the South Dakota Chorale, has been awarded a fellowship with the 2015 International Conductors Exchange Program to Sweden. Selected by the American Choral Directors Association, Dr. Schmidt will be among 14 U.S. conductors to travel to Stockholm, Sweden, in October, for the Scandinavian Choral Convention.  As part of this fellowship, Dr. Schmidt will also serve as a host to a delegation of Swedish choral conductors that will attend the 2015 ACDA National Conference next February in Salt Lake City. The South Dakota Chorale is one of the choirs that has been selected to perform at the conference.“I am thrilled to learn more about the incredible Swedish choral tradition and establish lifelong connections with Swedish conductors. This experience will certainly be one that will influence my day to day work and I am eager to share all that I learn with students and singers in the future” says Schmidt.  

Dr. Brian A. Schmidt, the founding director of The South Dakota Chorale, is a native of New Ulm Minnesota.  He completed his undergraduate studies at South Dakota State University.  Graduate study was at The University of North Texas where he earned masters and doctoral degrees under the direction of Dr. Richard Sparks and Dr. Jerry McCoy.  Dr. Schmidt is currently the Assistant Conductor and Administrative Coordinator of Chapel Music at Duke University Chapel.  Under his leadership, the Duke Vespers Ensemble and The South Dakota Chorale have explored the breadth of the choral repertoire, producing performances and recordings that include Buxtehude’s Membri Jesu Nostri, the Duruflé Requiem, and Sven-David Sandström’s Four Songs of Love.  He has been a particular proponent of the contemporary Scandinavian and Eastern European choral traditions. 
 
More information on Brian Schmidt can be found at www.brianschmidtmusic.com and www.southdakotachorale.com. 

CONGRATULATIONS BRIAN!
Dr. Brian Schmidt, Artistic Director of the South Dakota Chorale, has been awarded a fellowship with the 2015 International Conductors Exchange Program to Sweden. Selected by the American Choral Directors Association, Dr. Schmidt will be among 14 U.S. conductors to travel to Stockholm, Sweden, in October, for the Scandinavian Choral Convention. As part of this fellowship, Dr. Schmidt will also serve as a host to a delegation of Swedish choral conductors that will attend the 2015 ACDA National Conference next February in Salt Lake City. The South Dakota Chorale is one of the choirs that has been selected to perform at the conference.“I am thrilled to learn more about the incredible Swedish choral tradition and establish lifelong connections with Swedish conductors. This experience will certainly be one that will influence my day to day work and I am eager to share all that I learn with students and singers in the future” says Schmidt.

Dr. Brian A. Schmidt, the founding director of The South Dakota Chorale, is a native of New Ulm Minnesota. He completed his undergraduate studies at South Dakota State University. Graduate study was at The University of North Texas where he earned masters and doctoral degrees under the direction of Dr. Richard Sparks and Dr. Jerry McCoy. Dr. Schmidt is currently the Assistant Conductor and Administrative Coordinator of Chapel Music at Duke University Chapel. Under his leadership, the Duke Vespers Ensemble and The South Dakota Chorale have explored the breadth of the choral repertoire, producing performances and recordings that include Buxtehude’s Membri Jesu Nostri, the Duruflé Requiem, and Sven-David Sandström’s Four Songs of Love. He has been a particular proponent of the contemporary Scandinavian and Eastern European choral traditions.

More information on Brian Schmidt can be found atwww.brianschmidtmusic.com and www.southdakotachorale.com. 

Dr. Brian A. Schmidt, the founding director of The South Dakota Chorale, is a native of New Ulm Minnesota. He completed his undergraduate studies at South Dakota State University. Graduate study was at The University of North Texas where he earned masters and doctoral degrees under the direction of Dr. Richard Sparks and Dr. Jerry McCoy. Dr. Schmidt is currently the Assistant Conductor and Administrative Coordinator of Chapel Music at Duke University Chapel. Under his leadership, the Duke Vespers Ensemble and The South Dakota Chorale have explored the breadth of the choral repertoire, producing performances and recordings that include Buxtehude’s Membri Jesu Nostri, the Duruflé Requiem, and Sven-David Sandström’s Four Songs of Love. He has been a particular proponent of the contemporary Scandinavian and Eastern European choral traditions. 
More information on Brian Schmidt can be found atwww.brianschmidtmusic.com and www.southdakotachorale.com. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thanks, Universe, for the medicine for my soul!

This past Sunday I was walking to go pick up my son who had an afternoon activity at the large Anglican church in town. As I was walking I was assaulted on a regular basis by the mega-thump of car stereos playing rap music, with of course the bass turned up to eleven. It was so ridiculously pervasive block after block that it pretty much sickened me and made me feel very depressed about the lack of interest by the general public in anything other than the crap put out by the rap and pop industry. It’s all about money, of course- if it's crap yet sells, that's all that matters, right? Well I guess classical music, jazz, authentic world music and many other styles don't matter, even though I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to prove the superiority, complexities, and rewards of so many other types of music over and beyond what is popular in the US today.

Anyway, this sadness I was feeling as I walked to the church really came over me- and to be honest, I have been a bit down lately anyway. I do suffer from periods of depression and I am not against letting people know that about me. So yeah, I was feeling pretty sucky!

But here is what happened next- I walked into the church and Aidan's activity was not quite done. And I also noticed that someone was playing the magnificent 1922 Casavant pipe organ there, so I wandered into the side of the sanctuary and listened for a bit. You might have though that this would cheer me up, but actually it was having the opposite effect. For as the organist finished playing a most epic piece there was no one there- I really didn’t count, since I had just wandered in to hear the last few minutes of this practice session. So the piece ended in a roaring forte and then-- silence. Nothing- no roar of an audience, just silence- reminding me of the proverbial tree falling in the forest. As the organist got up to leave, I said hi to him in the hallway. I didn’t even introduce myself as a composer like I usually do (who cares- does it matter all the time?) and asked him what he had been playing. He was very nice and told me it was a neglected piece by JS Bach. He then went on to tell me that he was practicing it because he was to be a part of a project by WFMT radio in Chicago to perform ALL of the JS Bach music for organ over a period of months in ten concerts. He also cheerfully told me that he had sort of volunteered to do the forgotten pieces that the other organists didn’t pick to play. I thanked him for his playing and wished him well. And all of a sudden my spirits were so much higher- for he had also gone on to tell me that WFMT had asked listeners if they would attend such a series of concerts and apparently the answer was a resounding yes. Would Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, or Kanye West or their followers be in the audience? Duh, no, but it least it made me feel like our classical art is not totally dying in front of our very eyes quite as much as I usually think it is. Here is info on the ten-concert series: http://www.wfmt.com/main.taf?erube_fh=wttw&wttw.submit.EventList=1#event673

The Dude


And then something more happened! I heard voices singing upstairs- not old, tired church choir voices but truly great professional voices AND a sound I even recognized. I wandered upstairs and lo and behold, the professional choir Chicago A Cappella was rehearsing. They have done a lot of my music over the last ten years, for which I am very thankful. This is not their usual rehearsal space but for today (hmm, interesting) they were there working on some chant and chant-based music for their first concert of the season. I said hi (I saw some new faces and a new face directing for this concert- John William Trotta) and was also happy to introduce myself to the new members, since the group will be singing my Christmas spiritual “Ain' dat-a Rockin' All Night” in December. I left them alone to continue rehearsing some men's parts and had a nice, quick conversation with longtime member Betsy Grizzell.



John William Trotter

So what was going on here? It's pretty amazing that the universe dropped these two incidents right into my lap in the space of 15 minutes, isn't it? It made me feel so good, so hopeful, and made me want to throw away the depressing thoughts that were invading my space on the walk over to the church. And in fact, I have been pretty down for bits and pieces of this whole summer- I have been trying to shake it off, but with only partial results. Maybe this was a message to me not only about the music that I love, but also about how I need to embrace the positive aspects of life and to more firmly take control of my psyche and put the negative inner-thought monster into the naughty corner!

So thank you to the universe, and also JS Bach (you crazy genius you), the dear and very talented organist, WFMT radio, and Chicago A Cappella for your gift to me Sunday!








Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Happy Holidaze? My new carol book and other holiday repertoire

Happy Holidaze?? Umm, yeah I know you are groaning- but some folks are already picking out December holiday repertoire! While I am especially aiming to gain attention for my book of 18 carols for women's voices, please know that if you scroll down you will find some rep for SATB music as well! Some of those pieces below have rental orchestrations which have been very popular with audiences.
Last Fall I released "Carols, distinctive arrangements for women's voices", and it was an amazing  process to not only research and write the pieces but be my own publisher as well. I had a lot of help from many folks around the country- proofreading, choirs trying out the pieces, etc. It made me really appreciate the talent and the generosity of my musical colleagues. The collection has sold well and was just reviewed very favorably in the August 2014 Choral Journal (available right now online, and hard copies in the mail soon). Scroll way down to read the review.

Thanks for reading- and keep enjoying your summer break!
 


18 New Christmas Carol Arrangements
Scored variously for SA, SSA, SSAA a cappella; some with simple instrument parts
Sacred texts in English, Latin, German, French, and Spanish
Durations from 1:30 to 5:00 each carol
Price: $15.95 per copy- FREE SHIPPING on all US and Canada orders  (please note- this is the current price- the Choral Journal lists it at $17.95)
Order through paulcarey.net or email me at paulcarey440@yahoo.com
Also through Musical Resources, the exclusive wholesale distributor

Paypal or conventional billing available


An exciting new collection of 18 carols in new, creative settings suitable for
high school and beyond women's voices, plus also suitable for advanced treble children's choirs.


- Carols and processionals for both concert or madrigal dinner use
- A mixture of transcriptions, arrangements, and new settings of classic Christmas texts, occaisional solo, duo, and trio passages create variety for strophic carols
- Traditional English and Latin texts, plus settings in French, German, and Spanish
- A mixture of easy to more challenging carols, as well as a wide variety of moods and tempi
- Some carols have instrumental parts for one or two players (for instance harp, two flutes or other melody instruments, cello, percussion). Instrumental parts can be downloaded by clicking on the title below.
 
If anyone out there with a women's choir or youth advanced treble choir would like a TOTALLY FREE PERUSAL COPY- send me your US or Canada street address and I will get one to you. I think once you examine it, you will agree that it can be a resource you can go to year after year for December programming. Last year a number of the choirs who bought copies did 2,3,4, carols out of the book at their holiday program!


Here are some other pieces of mine which might really spice up your December programs.

Let me know if you would like any free perusal scores of these pieces. I will just highlight a few- you can view a complete listing with details, score samples, etc. of all of my many Christmas, Hanukkah, and Winter Solstice scores by visiting:

One of my holiday bestsellers is the Hanukkah song "Unending Flame" with a truly nice text (so many Hanukkah texts are awful, I think you will agree). Voicings available are SA or SABar. There is also a rental orchestration for this piece which really makes it pop.
Another bestselling piece which can be either with piano or rental orchestration  is my very dancey SSA version in mixed meters of I Saw three Ships:
http://paulcarey.net/Music/I_Saw_3_Ships.htm

If you are looking for SATB works, Nancy Menk made a very nice recording of my lyrical “Hush my Dear, Lie Still and Slumber" which you can hear:  
I also have a piece with a similar feel to it- my arrangement of “Gabriel's Message”, available in manuscript.
Finally, some pieces with brass. First up is “Christmas Bells”, which was commissioned by Edie Copley at N. Arizona University. This is big and festive (yet with a very introspective middle section)  for SATB/brass/organ/perc/handbells.  This piece is now also fully orchestrated.
The ending will ensure that your entire audience is awake:
http://paulcarey.net/Music/Christmas%20Bells.htm

The other brass piece is not as festive since the text by the brilliant Thomas Merton is generally more reflective- it's called “The Winter's Night Carol”. I don't have a good recording yet of the piece due to miking issues at performances, but I can certainly e-mail you a score if you like!


CAROL BOOK REVIEW FROM THE AUGUST 2014 CHORAL JOURNAL

Paul Carey's work as a choral composer and arranger is well acknowledged and valued.  His newest publication, Carols…for Women's Voices, takes a significant step in furthering his reputation as a composer for treble and women's voices.    Many of Carey's fine and best-selling arrangements and compositions of carols for mixed, children's, men's and women's voices are available through leading publishers such as Oxford University Press, CF Peters, Lorenz, and Roger Dean.  Yet, unlike many compilations of works by modern composers and arrangers, this distinctive collection does not contain works available through other sources or as separate folios. 

Most of the works found in this collection are arrangements of melodies or compositions upon texts from classic manuscripts and various folk sources.   Nonetheless, the recastings of these materials in Carey's hand are fresh and distinctive.  His "Personant Hodie" (from the Piae Cantiones), for example, retains the familiar tune of the work for the most part but lightens the texture with gavotte-like ritornelli and an unexpected reworking of the melody in 7/8.     Other works, such his SSA unaccompanied version of the classic "We Wish You A Merry Christmas", find a different voice through this composer's compositional wit.  As these two examples imply, the collection contains both sacred and secular carols.  In addition, these two arrangements also exemplify the suitability of some of Carey's arrangements for younger choirs.

The title of this collection is somewhat deceiving, for of the eighteen works in this collection, five are entirely new works, penned using familiar texts.  The distinctiveness of even these works can be evinced by comparing two texts that both Carey and Benjamin Britten have set:  "There is no rose of such virtue" and "Adam Lay ybounden" (perhaps most familiar as the text used for Britten's "Deo Gratias" from A Ceremony of Carols ).   The former is richly set with a nearly chantlike solo and responses by duets and a quartet that shimmer with their uses of inversional modal alterations.  The latter text is interpreted through completely new musical lenses.  The ABAB form of Carey's setting alternates between a haunting, contemplative section and a second, more rhythmically driving section.  This compositional choice musically refocuses the text on the apple's theological role, that of emphasizing the praise of the apple's acceptance and its eventual conclusion in the birth of Jesus.   These five original works alone make it difficult to overlook this collection, and underscore the fact that these arrangements can also find a home in the repertories of more advanced treble/women's choirs.

Cristobal de Morales' O Magnum Mysterium is the only work included in this collection where Carey assumes the singular role of editor.  As would be expected, Carey's edition is much more lightly edited than the classic (SSAA) Schirmer edition by Goodale, but the choice of transcribing this work a half-step higher mirrors a significant characteristic of this collection as a whole—each of these "distinctive arrangements" are sensitive to the distinct characteristics of women's voices.  The Morales is often performed in this key, as it simply resounds better and navigates the passaggi more easily.  Furthermore, such sensitivity extends to the variety of texture, styles, tempi, voicings, and languages (french, latin, spanish, german, and english) found herein.  Carey's collection is varied enough to lend variety to any program built from its offerings, yet cohesive enough to lend solidity to such a performance. (Note: This reviewer acknowledges having contributed to the translations of French texts and initial readings of some of the works in this volume.) 

The quality of these arrangements and the breadth of stylistic variety reflected in this holiday collection for treble voices is nearly unparalleled; for choral ensembles and programs of all types, and for churches with treble ensembles, this fine publication could reasonably be expected to occupy a similar place in holiday/Christmas libraries as the Oxford Book 0f Carols and Carols for Choirs currently hold.  Well edited by Carey and "tested" by various types of treble/women's choruses, this solid collection possesses enough musical gold to fit the needs of many types of choirs, performances, and even educational functions.

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Great Collaboration!

I just finished a three day residency with the Escanaba (MI) Junior High School and High School choirs, where last night the Chorale, their top group, premiered a new commission from me entitled "April" (SATB/piano).  This trip was a long time in planning and I have to say, the singing was epic and that I was treated so wonderfully by everyone.

When I arrived Sunday afternoon to my spacious hotel, there was a large gift basket awaiting me. The basket was filled with all sorts of great Upper Peninsula Michigan products, especially local Escanaba products- honey, wine, candy bars, candles, and so on. What a sweet touch! I also found out later that the beautiful box that contained the gifts was handmade by one of the high school's music booster folks- wow!



In the days before the concert I worked with the junior high school chorus on my piece "May I be Happy" (published by Roger Dean), a piece which is growing in popularity across the country. My main focus with this group was to project the text, and try to present more joy as they sang. I also have to say that a certain passage in the piece which throws quite a few choirs was spot-on as sung by these folks since their director, the very talented John Beck, had them solfege the piece, thus avoiding the pitfalls that trip up a lot of choirs who don't utilize solfege.

I also worked with the HS Chorus on my piece "Bright Morning Stars" (published by Colla Voce), an old, yet still vibrant American folk hymn. We worked on tuning of this pentatonic song and especially sweetened up the major thirds, once again by using solfege. We also had some fun channelling our opera diva voices. By asking to hear their take on a diva voice, we were rewarded by them propelling a lot more air through their full vocal mechanism and we not only wound up with more sound projection, but better tuning as well. Of course we weren't trying to teach them to belt- just move more air! The kids had fun with this and I think it will pay off when they sing other pieces- looking to find a bigger, yet still healthy voice production more in line with their maturing voices. As many of you know, a lot of kids in early high school still have their 6th grade sound model in their head and don't realize that they can, sometimes quite easily, move beyond that toward more full vocal production.



Most of my time was spent with  the Chorale, the top group at the high school and the group singing the commission premiere. I worked intensively with them Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday polishing the piece. This was really fulfilling for all of us, and it was only possible because they had learned the piece so thoroughly in advance and had it well-memorized. This meant that not a single singer was struggling with notes, text, or anything, and we could try different phrasing, dynamics, word-stresses, and other nuances to find just the right performance presentation. The Escanaba Chorale has a long-standing history of choral excellence, and has been, for years, one of the very top high school programs in the entire state of Michigan, which is a very strong choral state both at the high school and collegiate level. For anyone who thinks the U.P. of Michigan is just about "Yoopers", hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling, they couldn't be more ignorant of the facts. Music is very strong in Escanaba and Marquette, and there are many fine artists, photographers, poets and novelists throughout the U.P.

I loved that every person in the Chorale was committed to working hard with me- to engage and share some real collaborative exploration toward more expression of the text and music, and even have fun along the way. Each and every one of them was ready to pitch in and tune a particular chord, try slightly different tempi, etc. Leading the way, of course, was their amazing and very talented director of thirty-six years, John Beck, and his wonderful accompanist, Kim Beck - a keyboardist capable of fine nuance as well as sparkling pianism.

John Beck


When the choirs performed Wednesday night the JHS Chorus shone as did the HS Chorus. John and I felt that the latter was reaching a new zone of skill and confidence that night. When the Chorale took the stage and wowed the crowd with a number of pieces preceding mine, the stage was set for the premiere of my piece. Now this piece is quite subtle- it begins and ends softly and many high school audiences won't be drawn in by quiet pieces, they usually want big and bold music to listen to. But this evening's audience was different. I sensed them becoming very focused by the quiet beginning, and when there were climaxes of sound they were quite excited by them (believe me, we composers can read an audience during a performance quite well- we can sense the audience's energy response to the music!). By the end of the piece they were all totally drawn in- the auditorium was totally quiet, even younger siblings were totally silent, and when the piece was over there was a tiny magical moment of silence and then a big standing ovation when John had me stand. Getting standing "O"s as a composer isn't really that common- sure, people usually applaud plenty, but the standing "O" in the middle of a concert is not that common. Needless to say I was thrilled by the performance. At the reception following the concert I had dozens of people shake my hand, stood for pics with choir members, and so on. And at the reception, the wonderful booster folks had a ginormous cake with an edible image of the first page of the score on the cake (yay for modern cake technology). All in all the concert evening was spectacular and the whole experience with the choir, John and Kim Beck, the boosters, and choir parents was one of the most epic experiences I have ever had. I was also treated to two wonderful dinners while I was in town. Maybe I should apply to become the Escanaba, MI composer-in residence!

Here is a nice news article on the prep for the piece:

 http://upperpeninsula.biz/escanaba-chorale-sing-april-for-composer/

One final word about our process for this piece. John and I had some difficulties finding a text. He had done some "big" pieces by me like "My Friend Elijah" but I felt that maybe I wanted to do something more intimate. We agreed on that after awhile but still didn't have a text. Then I found out that they might have found an Escanaba poet we could work with. That turned out to be a dead-end, however. Then we finally found a text we liked, BUT, now I was going to be on the road for quite a spell. So I decided to try to start the piece at home, make some progress on it, and then work on it as I travelled to composing and music conference gigs I had in Jacksonville, FL, Little Rock, AR, and New Orleans. While still at home, I was able to get about halfway through the piece and send that much to John so the choir could start on it. I was then able to find a few hours here and there on the road to complete the piece. This was a new way of working for me- I had never tried to compose on the road before. But it worked, and I actually enjoyed finishing the piece in New Orleans in my hotel overlooking the French Quarter. Who knows, maybe there is a measure or two of zydeco in there somewhere!

So in conclusion, the friendliness and hospitality in Escanaba from EVERYONE was overwhelming. This week was an absolute joy. To anyone from Escanaba reading this- thanks for an amazing time there. You are great people!

COMING UP: More epic music-making starting in a few days; this time in Eastern Washington state with the very talented, energetic young conductor Justin Raffa and the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers in a program of mostly my music, including a very serious, unusual commissioned piece (oh yeah, plus zombie music too!).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Belt it, baby! Or not?

Belting is a grand American singing tradition, no doubt about it. Some good stuff there over the decades.
But when did we decide to belt EVERYTHING? AND when did we decide to melisma-ize everything in the pop world? Are pop singers being paid by the "note"? I call it "note" because often their melisma-izing of things like the Star Spangled Banner is so full of "pitchy, dawg" "notes" that really can't be recognized as being true notes or rhythms in some way (Music Theory 101 students-good luck notating the growls, slides, and whines and such in the clip below). Or maybe each and every melisma here, and all the belted grunts, groans, and howls are actually a  display of semiotic genius? I dunno.




Finally there seems to be a push back by more and more people at this weedy garden of pop divas and their imitators. Renee Flemings' performance of the National Anthem at the Super Bowl was a step in the right direction even if you didn't like the orchestral arrangement. And didn't it seem odd that people were gushing (before the fact) that a "REAL OPERA SINGER" was going to sing at the Super Bowl? " OMG, a real opera singer, I wonder what that might sound like?", seemed to be the question on the lips of every vapid, pop-world oriented person in America. Dang- seriously?

Down below is a post today by the ever insightful Michael Finke called "A Meditation on the Overworked Belter". What do you think of this? I shared this on FaceBook to friends and all my classically trained pals (but many of them also do the pop world , too) agreed with Finke. Not surprisingly "Let it Go" from "Frozen" came up in this FB discussion. I answered back to one comment with "nodes never bothered me anyway"- as in vocal nodes for those who don't know the reference! Anyway, see what you think of Finke's thoughts. Keep in  mind that he isn't against belting at all- just against it being done constantly, and without consideration of the lyrics and the plot.

But first let me present my idea of great belting in service of lyrics and plot- a performance that always brings chills to me, especially enhanced by the lighting at the end, and which doesn't turn into belting until near the end of the tune (and ever so gradually builds into it over about a full minute of singing, starting at about the 2:00 mark). Here is Liza Minnelli in the film version of Cabaret (hey Warner Brothers, hope you're okay with me placing this here).



Here now is Finke's article:

http://newmusicaltheatre.com/greenroom/2014/04/a-meditation-on-the-overworked-belter/


A Meditation on the Overworked Belter by Michael Finke

Before I dive into the topic of “belting,” let me begin by saying that I (like many others) always appreciate the power of a singer or performer that can reach impossible pitches at impossible decibels. It can be a thrilling moment when an actor fires off all missiles into a single word or phrase. But that being said, I have come to wonder if the modern age of musical theatre belting has come to parallel the American stereotype of overwhelming excess.

I know, I know. If a composer likes to write songs strictly for belters, and a singer only likes to perform songs for belters, and an audience wants to hear said singers belting, then what’s the harm? Sometimes such musical moments can function in an immensely cathartic way causing one to rejoice, sob, or somewhere in between. However, like most things in life, too much of one thing can ultimately impair the greater objective at hand.
Belters... let it go. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters)
Belters… let it go. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters)

Belting, or screlting, or masking-belting-by-mixing, or whatever you want to call it could potentially be seen as an epidemic in musical theatre. Some nights I go out to the theatre and realize I’m being belted at for a solid two hours in which there is no juxtaposition or shifting of tone/ambiance at any point in the show. Now I am the last person to categorize rules when it comes to creating any type of theatre. But I can’t help but ponder the static feeling of hearing “belting song” after “belting song” after “belting song.”

What has lead to this type of environment? Is it the offensive skyrocketing of ticket prices, in which audiences want guaranteed moments that say their money was well spent? Is it the business of pop culture, in which the loudest tend to get the most attention? Or is it the theory that people will always be more dazzled by the flexing of a vocal range rather than the flexing of a thought or idea within a song?
Let’s create a scenario in which you, the reader, are sitting in a room with a musical theatre actor performing a song. The content of the song is about (just for the sake of an example) a woman who just lost her husband. The song is heartbreaking, the performer is equally moving, and the song generally has a reasonable range. But suddenly and without warning, the melody soars high into the stratosphere of sheet music. The performer is blasting all possible sound while sounding absolutely gorgeous. Now I’ll pose a question: is your mind still focused on all that the character is experiencing? Or is your mind focused on how impressed you are that the singer can hit those notes? Or both?

No wrong answer here. But I tend to find myself shifting my frame of mind from the content of the song to the skill set of the singer. I’m not saying both cannot be achieved at the same time, but I do believe it is a very intricate line to balance. And as a musical theatre writer, I’m constantly unnerved by having musical moments result in a muscular distraction (albeit a fun/sexy distraction, but a distraction nonetheless).
Another composer once (harshly) stated that “Some writers use belting as a means of hiding behind their own material.” That statement caught me off guard (as I’m certainly a composer who has asked his actors to hit their fair share of tough pitches). I would much rather phrase the statement in an alternative/productive way – “There’s a time and place for certain qualities of music, and sometimes the choice is in the wrong place and/or the wrong time.”

In old school musical theatre (for all of its glory and all of its embarrassments), the use of vocally charged moments seemed to arrive at very meticulous plot points. A former musical composition teacher once said to me, “The most important note should always be the loudest!” (there are those damn words again! Always or should.) And while those kinds of restrictions rub me the wrong way, I have come to understand it as a helpful tool. Take Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel for example. An incredibly emotionally draining play, Carousel handles heavy topics such as suicide, spousal abuse, misogyny, and a giant pile of pure self-loathing. And yet the one moment you hear any character belt is when the protagonist, Billy Bigelow, is deciding whether or not to support his unborn child or die trying. I’ll reiterate that: he’s either going to support his future baby or die. And that was the one moment in which Rodgers decided, “Yes. Let’s ask him to pump up the volume a bit.” (Not a direct quote, but it’s fun to imagine.)

Cabarets and concerts are a different experience entirely. With an influx of alcohol, social gatherings, and a crowd that sometimes consist of a short attention span, it’s understandable to have multiple singers stand onstage and create as much sound as necessary (although some song cycles/concerts manage to pull off the opposite in the most astonishing of ways, i.e. the works of Ricky Ian Gordon or John Bucchino). But when you’re dealing with a more direct linear narrative, such tools can often backfire.

Every show is different. Every composer is different. And more power to the composer who strictly writes song for belters (and the singers who love the material). However when the most poignant moment in a show can be as quiet as “Send in the Clowns,” “You Must Love Me” or the revelatory concluding duet, “Pierre and Natasha” (Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812), my brain and my heart are equally dazzled. Many new musical theatre writers are able to capture that somber but resiliently breathtaking aesthetic in wonderfully dramatic ways. Everything from Gaby Alter’s “Deep in February” to Miller and Tysen’s “One of These Nights” can stir a cacophony of emotions, while asking the singers to exercise different parts of their instrument beyond their own vocal chords.