Dr. Matthew Emery (b.1991) is a Canadian composer whose music has been performed in twenty-five countries. He currently lives and works in Toronto, Canada where he maintains an active composition and teaching studio.

Double Choir [SATB choir, and SATB choir]

Choir one may be performed as a Quartet, or Small Ensemble with solos

Text by Petrarch and Natalie Fasheh

Publisher: TBD, email for score {not available till Sept. 2021}

8-9 min duration approximately

Thanks go to David Almond and the Almond family for their financial contributions to this project, and to the Kirkland Choral Society (Kirkland, WA; Dr. Glenn R. Gregg, Music Director) which contributed to the project financially, and will give the USA premiere.

Notes from the composer:

“I Breathe” is a work for double choir, built on ideas of binaries: old and new, homophonic and polyphonic, stable and unstable; “I Breathe” incorporates an earlier work of mine: “Breathe”. The juxtaposition of styles, texts and gestures is highlighted throughout “I Breathe” through the use of both modern and past poetry, musical ideas inspired by past eras (Medieval, Baroque, and Renaissance), and juxtaposition of instrumentation: responsorial phrases between choirs, small groups and/or soloists. The work uses these layers of imagery and dialogue to capture the feelings of emotions ranging from hope to despair, and everything in-between that we are facing due to COVID 19. The commissioned poem by Natalie Fasheh exquisitely captures the atmosphere of both the unsettledness, and acceptance that we (I) face(ed) during these times. She both responds to the Petrarch text (used in “Breathe”), and then reaches beyond it.

Program note:

“I Breathe” is in a three part form.

Part one features responsorial phrases alternating virtuosic, florid lines, with block style homophony. There are phrases that may be sung as solos. Part one is a metaphor for the fear, strife and uncertainty of life exemplified through angular melodies, and an evocative, dissonant harmonic palette.

Part two sees the intersection of both choirs centred around “Breathe”. Choir one sings along side choir two, at times in unison, harmony or in juxtaposition. In some ways, the middle movement “Breathe” is an antidote to the tension and angularity of part one; a literal and metaphoric exhalation and collective breath of resolution (hope).

Note from the poet:

What are we faced with when one is suffering from an illness that is beyond our global knowledge and capacity of physical healing? How has society time and time again, in such situations, grappled with the moments of accepting death, versus fighting for life? What kind of hope does it yield? Inspired by David Almond’s story of him and his Mother’s COVID-19 experience. The moment in the story that stood out to me was when his mother did not want to fight for her life, contrary to what David and his family wanted. In this poem I attempted to empathetically explore the possible perspective of both the ill mother and her son, on pain, life, death, hope, love, and courage, in such moments of suffering from this mysterious deadly illness.

Poet biography:
Natalie Fasheh is a Palestinian-Jordanian emerging singer, poet, community-engaged artist, and choral musician. She leads vocal ensemble experiences rooted in empowerment, cultural awareness, and activism. Natalie works with singing communities of varying ages and lifestyles as a choir conductor, teaching artist, and mentor for young people. She is the co-founder and co- director of Mosaic Music Collective: joining newcomers and long-standing residents through intergenerational, multicultural song. Natalie writes poetry on themes of cultural identity, nature, and humanity. She shares Arabic folk songs as a guest singer, clinician, and choral arranger. Natalie has most recently been entwining all aspects of her artistry in designing and leading social justice-based collaborative choral composition projects.

Natalie looks forward to continuing artistically celebrating humanity’s diversity and common- threads, expanding her understanding of vocal music’s place in sociocultural dialogue and bridge-building, and exploring the multifaceted relationship between community-engaged art and choral art.

Composer biography:
Dr. Matthew Emery is a Canadian composer who “writes with an honesty which enchants” (Vancouver Sun). His music has been performed in twenty-six countries, and recent performance venues include the Great Wall of China, the White House and the Musikverein. Matthew has received over forty commissions and his music has been performed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Chamber Choir, Elmer Iseler Singers, National Youth Orchestra of Canada, National Youth Choir of Canada, European Union Youth Orchestra, Orchestra London, the Art of Time Ensemble, Rolston String Quartet, Dennis Wick Canadian Wind Orchestra, and the Bach Music Festival of Canada Orchestra.

Texts

Text by Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374): Trans. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1903

I saw how tears had left their weary traces Within those eyes that once the sun outshone,
I heard those lips, in low and plaintive moan, Breathe words to stir the mountains from their places. Love, wisdom, courage, tenderness, and truth Made in their mourning strains more high and dear Than ever wove soft sounds for mortal ear;
And heaven seemed listening in such saddest ruth The very leaves upon the bough to soothe,
Such sweetness filled the blissful atmosphere.

I Breathe

Written by Natalie Fasheh

Commissioned by Chronos Vocal Ensemble for the 2020-20201 project “Breathe”. Dedicated to David Almond, his mother, family, the world’s suffering COVID-19 patients, living and

passed, and their loved ones.

December 1, 2020

SATB A Cappella

4 min

Text: Petrarch

Publisher: TBD, email for score

Commissioned by Chronos Vocal Ensemble, Jordan Van Biert, conductor Dedicated to the memory of Anna Maria Almond, and all victims of COVID-19

VIDEO of Digital Premiere

Text
Francesco Petrarca [1304-1374], in the public domain. VI [excerpt, adapted by the composer]

I saw how tears had left their weary traces
Within those eyes that once the sun outshone,
I heard those lips, in low and plaintive moan,
Breathe words to stir the mountains from their places. Love, wisdom, courage, tenderness, and truth
Made in their mourning strains more high and dear Than ever wove soft sounds for mortal ear;
And heaven seemed listening in such saddest ruth The very leaves upon the bough to soothe,
Such sweetness filled the blissful atmosphere.

Notes on piece

This composition alternates homophonic chorale-like writing with a melody and accompaniment type writing in a ABAB form. The juxtaposition of these gestures alludes to the world at the time of composition; a world filled with uncertainty, chaos, strife, hope, compassion and love. At times the music is at odds with the dissonance or angularity of the musical phrase, at other times the music is lush, warm, and settled. The piece is a reminder that in the midst of turbulence and unknowns, may we hold dear the value of love, wisdom, courage, tenderness and truth.

Interview on the piece

Flute, Alto Flute and Piano
3 min duration
email for purchase

COMMISSIONED BY CHRISTOPHER LEE AND DENIS SAVELYEV WITH ASSISTANCE FROM THE CANADA COUNCIL FOR THE ARTS

Where Branches Tangle the Sky

This composition for Flute, Alto Flute and Piano mixes polyphonic flute writing with more homophonic chorale-like textures in the piano. The harmonies in the piano are both stable and unstable at the same time. There is a tension in the work created by balancing various voicing of added note sonorities in both the harmony and melodic gestures. These contemporary idioms bring both a modern freshness to the traditional phrasing and structure of the work. The music frequently uses thirds and sixths taking inspiration from O Canada. Where Branches Tangle the Sky evokes images of life during COVID-19; moments of fragility, hope, anger, tension, passion, questioning, meandering – all inspire the gestures in this composition. The title is a recontextualization of a line from a usually unsung verse from Canada’s national anthem: where pines and maples grow; the evocative title alludes to the imagery of Canada’s rich landscape and natural beauty, as well as opening possibilities for reflection and reconciliation.

To be premiered virtually fall 2020, live 2021

String Quartet
Commissioned by the Odin String Quartet for their lockdown lullabies project.
3 min

Program Note:
“There is nowhere else but ‘here’” makes use of sustained tones, gentle melodic flourishes, homophonic textures, and contrasts of range and timbre to evocatively bring forth a calming musical lullaby. The music ebbs and flows, like a soft flame from a dwindling campfire. Phrases gently blossom, melodies intermingle with diatonic distances agains the hushed sustained sonorities. The work is inspired by the image of looking to what exists, the ordinary, the unremarkable and finding inspiration and meaning there. During the global crisis of COVID-19 our worlds were withheld, restricted and shattered; we looked to our immediate surroundings for everything. This piece is a mediation on the idea of ‘here’.

This score is not for sale, premiere November 2020.

2 min
SATB A cappella
Text by Carl Sandburg (Public Domain Canada)
Email for score

Commissioned by Dr. Joseph Ohrt. Central Bucks West Choir, for the Toronto Composition Summit 2018, Toronto Canada

THE BUFFALOES are gone.
And those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
Those who saw the buffaloes by thousands and how they pawed the prairie sod into dust with their hoofs, their great heads down pawing on in a great pageant of dusk,
Those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
And the buffaloes are gone.

Change
Soprano Soloist and Orchestra

16 min duration
[DMA Thesis]

email for score excerpt and mock up audio
*as of August 2020, this work is unperformed. Contact me if you are interested in the premiere

Emery_Matthew_202011_DMA_thesis

“Change” is a 16-minute composition for soprano soloist and orchestra. It uses shifting timbres, colours and the cyclic use of motives and harmonic ideas to evoke notions of the resiliency of human spirit. “Change” sets Raymond Knister’s poem of the same title, which is in the public domain. The orchestral instrumentation comprises of: piccolo, two flutes, two oboe, three clarinets (third double bass clarinet), three bassoons; four horns, two trumpets in B flat, two tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba; timpani, three percussion (bowed vibraphone, bass drum, tubular bells, bowed crotales, glockenspiel, marimba, handbells); harp, and strings (suggested 16 14 10 10 6). “Changeuses a linear form in seven sections (relating to the structure of the text). The work in some sense is one large blossoming and decaying musical gesture; the composition slowly develops into a full tutti musical gesture which then gradually decays away into similar music to that which opened the work. “Change” explores various changes in orchestration and colour with most sections of the work exploring a variation in timbre or instrumentation. The music moves from hushed delicate gestures to a darker rich harp and marimba colour, and then to a full shimmering brass hue. The music shifts away from the brass texture to a more sparse colour; glissandi trombones, delicate string writing on harmonics with fleeting flute flutterings and lip bends above. Then the music beings to combine instrumental families as it builds to tutti writing for the orchestra. A chorale melody begins to drive the music to the climactic phrases. The piece ends in a similar style as it began, with delicate, hushed gestures, though developed through inversion and slight variations in retrograde: motifs are re-interpolated and transformed as if upon reflection they have grown and evolved, akin to how humans grow and reflect at certain stages in our lives; we may continue to live a similar life as we did years ago, but we change and reorientate ourselves. The music is left open-ended, peacefully evaporating into nothing, it’s as if moments of our life pass us by and are now only a memory.

Emery_Matthew_202011_DMA_thesis

Instrumentation

Instrumentation

Piccolo
2 Flutes
2 Oboes
3 Clarinets in B flat (3rd doubling Bass Clarinet) 3 Bassoons

4 Horns in F
3 Trumpets in B flat 2 Tenor Trombones Bass Trombone Tuba

Timpani
3 Percussion

1: Vibraphone (bowed), Bass Drum, Tubular Bells, Crotales (bowed), Cymbal

2: Bass Drum, Hand Bells, Vibraphone (bowed), Crotales (bowed), Glockenspiel, Tubular Bells

3: Marimba, Hand Bells, Harp

Soprano Soloist
Strings (suggested 16 14 10 10 6) Score in C

Emery_Matthew_202011_DMA_thesis

Text

Text

“Change” Raymond Knister
The poem is in the public domain and is found on page 332 of The Midland 8.12 (Dec, 1922).

I shall not wonder more, then, But I shall know.

Leaves change, and birds, flowers, And after years are still the same.

The sea’s breast heaves in sighs to the moon, But they are moon and sea forever.

As in other times the trees stand tense and lonely, And spread a hollow moan of other times.

You will be you yourself,
I’ll find you more, not else,
For vintage of the woeful years.

The sea breathes, or broods, or loudens,
Is bright or is mist and the end of the world; And the sea is constant to change.

I shall not wonder more, then, But I shall know.

Raymond Knister (1899-1932)

John Raymond Knister was born in 1899 at Ruscomb, near Stoney Point, Lake St. Clair, where he drowned while swimming in August 1932. He wrote about the everyday rural farm life of Southwestern Ontario. His images are immediate and clear, they elevate the unremarkable. He wrote several collections of poetry and prose.

Unison Choir, SAB choir and SATB choir with Piano

10 min duration

Commissioned by the Kingston Chamber Choir

Text: Walt Whitman (public domain)

on the beach at night score cover

The work is divided into three sections. The opening movement “On the beach at night” sets the tone and atmosphere for the work. It uses the SAB and SATB choirs with piano. The flowing bisbigliando-like piano gesture lays a groundwork for the music which explores various textures from within the ensemble. Some singers have non textual lines (ahs) while others sing poetry. Each phrase varies in its instrumentation creating new colours as altos of one ensemble are joined by sopranos of the other, and so on. At other times, the choirs sing in a more responsorial fashion (call and response) back to each other.

“Weep Not” is an a cappella motet sung by the SATB choir. The middle movement offers moments of repose and inward thought. The music alternates hymn-like chorale writing with more improvisatory chant like gestures.

The third section “Something there is” is a rhapsodic culmination of contrapuntal lines which weave and swirl around as if to emulate the night sky. The Unison choir joins the other two ensembles in this movement, singing an ostinato gesture on which the music evolves and builds.

The work speaks to the transcendent nature of humanity. In the poem, the girl sees possible limitations in her world. The father sees beyond these limitations, he sees the infinite possibilities. The “something more immortal” is the hope we have in the world, the hope that a child can, and will grow up to see beyond limitations. The depth of the poem is visualized using the flickering clouds and night sky, musically this is captured through the flowing piano gesture and weaving contrapuntal vocal lines.

Text: (adapted by the composer, presented here in unabridged form).

On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father, Watching the east, the autumn sky.

Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading, Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.

From the beach the child holding the hand of her father, Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to devour all, Watching, silently weeps.

Weep not, child,
Weep not, my darling,
With these kisses let me remove your tears,
The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,
They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in apparition,
Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the Pleiades shall emerge, They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure,
The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall again shine.

Then dearest child mournest thou only for Jupiter? Considerest thou alone the burial of the stars?

Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,) Something there is more immortal even than the stars, (Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,) Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter Longer than sun or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades.

SATB a cappella
text by Marjorie Pickthall (public domain)
3 min duration
email composer for score

commissioned by the Three Choir Festival: Georgetown Bach Chorale, Grand River Chorus and the Bach Elgar Choir

SERENADE

Marjorie Pickthall: a Book of Remembrance, by Lorne Pierce. The Ryerson Press, Toronto, 1925

Dark is the iris meadow,
Dark is the ivory tower,
And lightly the young moth’s shadow Sleeps on the passion-flower.

Gone are our day’s red roses,
 So lovely and lost and few,
 But the first star uncloses

A silver bud in the blue.


Night, and a flame in the embers Where the seal of the years was set,— When the almond-bough remembers How shall my heart forget?