Be Still, My Heart
SATB A Cappella
2 min duration
Rabindranath Tagore text
unpublished, email for score
“Be still, my heart, these great trees are prayers”
Flute, Alto Flute and Piano
3 min duration
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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
Commissioned by the Odin String Quartet for their lockdown lullabies project.
“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.
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.
Soprano Soloist and Orchestra
16 min duration
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*as of August 2020, this work is unperformed. Contact me if you are interested in the premiere
“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). “Change” uses 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.
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
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
Strings (suggested 16 14 10 10 6) Score in C
“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
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?
SSAA a cappella
Text: Thomas Dekker
Duration: 3 min
Publisher: Mark Foster (Hal Leonard)
This musical setting of the Dekker poem employs a warm, lush harmonic language along with a lovely, lyrical treatment of this familiar bedtime poem. Commissioned and premiered by the NW ACDA Women’s Honor Choir, this is a wonderfu addition to serious treble literature.
SSA a cappella
Text: Raymond Knister (public domain)
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Commissioned by the Oriana Women’s Choir (Toronto)
Novelist, short-story writer, and poet, John Raymond Knister was born in 1899 at Ruscomb, near Stoney Point, Lake St. Clair, where he drowned while swimming in August 1932. He left his widow Myrtle Gamble and a daughter Imogen Givens. Educated at Victoria College, University of Toronto, and Iowa State University, Knister made a sparse living first on his father’s farm near Blenheim, Ontario, and then as a journalist, man of letters, and editorial staff member of Ryerson Press. He lived in Chicago, Toronto, Hanlan’s Point, Port Dover, and Montreal. His two published novels are White Narcissus (1929) and My Star Predominant, the latter about the last years of the John Keats. Knister edited Canadian Short Stories in 1928. It was left to others to collect and publish his imagistic poetry: Dorothy Livesay in Collected Poems (1949), and David Arnason in Raymond Knister: Poems, Stories, and Essays (1975). Anne Burke published Raymond Knister: An Annotated Bibliography in 1981.
Poem in complete unabridged form:
Thin ridges of land unploughed Along the tree-rows
Covered with long cream grasses Wind-torn.
Brown sand between them, Blue boughs above.
Row and row of waves ever In the breaking;
Ever in arching and convulsed Imminence;
Roll of muddy sea between; Low clouds down-pressing And pallid and streaming rain.
Notes from the composer:
This poem is in the imagist style. The composition alternates non text with text, this juxtaposition is meant to suggest to the listener that there is something beyond the immediate; an alternation of imagined verses reality. The music is presented without text first, transporting the listener somewhere else, they are then comforted by the same, or familiar music with text from the poem which offers another image to ponder. “The Orchard on the Slope” is a musical reflection, offering a moment of repose in our world.