Choral

Choral works are linked to recordings if available. Hover over titles to check.

Beni Swa Leternel

  • SSA with piano
  • available from the composer
  • grade 3
  • 2:00

Beni Swa Leternel was composed in March of 2010 at the request of Johnny Matlock, conductor of the (Kennedy Middle School/Felten Middle School) Singing Irish Falcons. The text is scored for SSA choir and combines Creole and English in a driving7/8 meter. While 7/8 is normally not found in music for young voices, the relatively simple patterns make the rhythms easily accessible for the singers. The more complex harmonies are confined to the piano accompaniment.

Last Night as I was Sleeping

  • SATB with piano
  • available from the composer
  • grade 4
  • 3:16

A few years back, Johnny Matlock, my friend and also my daughter’s choral director, suggested that I write a piece for children’s choir, a medium I knew absolutely nothing about. However, I was intrigued by the idea and when my wife found an engaging text in a mixture of Haitian and English, I quickly put together Beni Swa l’eternel and surprised him with it. A few years later, when his high school choir was slated to perform in Carnegie Hall, Johnny again wondered if I would write a new work. We tossed around a number of ideas for a text including the Psalms, quotes on the arts and even a proposed original work by a student. None of these caught our imagination until I discovered a poem by the Spanish composer Antonio Machado (1875-1939) entitled “Last Night As I Was Sleeping.” The work’s vivid, colorful and deeply inspiring text seemed to make the piece almost write itself and while the group was unable to perform it at Carnegie Hall for logistical reasons, Johnny gave a wonderful premiere in the fall of 2014.

Psalms, Praises and Gifts

  • SATB with piano and four part flexible instrumental accompaniment (cued in piano)
  • available from the composer
  • grade 4
  • 6:10

The idea for Psalms, Praises and Gifts began during a conversation with FHSU Director of Choral Activities Terry Crull during early 2015. Terry had recently heard the University Wind Ensemble perform a work in which the band members were required to sing and wanted to commission a piece in which selected choir members would pick up instruments and play. He also thought that a natural text would come from the Psalms, specifically those with references to singing, playing and dancing. While I was intrigued by the idea, especially with the opportunity to show how many students both play and sing, I wasn’t sure how to make it work from a purely logistical standpoint. As I began to think on it, I decided to use a small instrumental ensemble which could be populated by as little as four players with the option of going up to any multiple of four to accommodate the size of the choir. I was able to accomplish this by setting up the instrumentation in an arrangement similar to the choir—that is, there would be parts which could be played by any instrument sounding in the soprano register (flute, oboe, trumpet, violin, etc.) and so forth. The accompanying recording uses clarinet and trumpet for the soprano register, alto saxophone and French horn for the alto, trombone and bassoon for the tenor with tuba and bass clarinet for the bass. At a cue in the music, these students step out of the choir, pick up the instruments and play.

The text is taken from Psalms 47, 81, 98, 140 and 150. It is presented initially in a variety of settings, but always with an emphasis on a straightforward setting that allow the words to be clearly understood. Following the instrumental interlude, various parts of the text are repeated in a venue that follows a pronounced call-and-response format.

Psalms, Praises and Gifts was commissioned by the Fort Hays State University Concert Choir, Dr. Terry Crull, director and premiered by the same ensemble at the Kansas Music Educators Association State Convention in February 2016.

 

Requiem 9-11

  • SATB with Wind Ensemble
  • Grade 5
  • 26:00

Shortly after the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001, singer-songwriter Billy Joel was asked if he intended to write a short work as a memoriam. He replied no, feeling that the tragedy demanded a much larger composition in the nature of an orchestral piece or a Requiem. It was this interview that initially sparked the idea of a choral-band collaboration, although the idea lay dormant for nearly a decade. After the successful performances of my Seven Impressions by the Fort Hays State University Concert Choir in early 2011, I began seriously thinking about a Requiem for Choir and Wind Ensemble and how such a work might reflect the events of that tragic day. It seemed to me that the multitude of colors available in the contemporary wind band coupled with its potential for dramatic power would be the ideal medium for such a setting. Additionally, I decided to include the work of several prominent American poets alongside portions of the traditional Latin Mass with the intent of personalizing the composition towards a country forever altered in the space of a few hours (the score also eschews the use of conventional Italian performance and style terms in favor of English directions). My aim was not to attempt a musical depiction of any real-life events; it was rather to combine my own memories with evocations of the thoughts and feelings (as well as I could imagine) of those who were present in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

As composers have done historically, I chose to use selected portions of the Latin text to set. I used the Requiem (I.) and Offertory (V.) in their entirety while slightly abridging the lengthy sequence of the Dies Irae (II.) The Sanctus, Agnus Dei and In Paradisum (IX) are set in their entirety, but combined into a single movement. Overall, the work reflects a modified arch form and each of the nine movements, with the exception of the last is intended to end in such a way as to preclude its use in a stand-alone setting.

Seven Impressions

  • SATB with piano
  • Grade 4
  • 8:00

After several years of band compositions and works centered around winds and percussion, I decided to take a break and write a choral work. The poems of Emily Dickinson piqued my interest and I began selecting works with a chronological approach in mind. That is, the poetry would begin with a child-like viewpoint, then move towards adolescence, adulthood and maturity.

Even before having the opportunity to hear the work, my friend and colleague Terry Crull offered to give the premiere with the Fort Hays State University Concert Choir at the 2011 Kansas Music Educators Association All-State Convention. In gratitude for this generosity and support, the Seven Impressions are dedicated to him and the choir.