She Speaks is a choral song cycle composed by Alice Dryden and Amy Gordon, which sets the text by Sharon Goldstein. It weaves together the experiences and voices of different women, both artistically and literally. The text and the music were a result of a close collaboration among the composers and the poet. The cycle is a progression through generations of strong women. Each woman throughout history has been able to build on the strength and courage of her ancestors.

Movement 1, She Is Silent, represents a past generation that endured hardship and suppression for the sake of the next generation. The thread from the woman’s sewing machine becomes the motivic thread that weaves throughout the other movements, anchoring future generations in her quiet resolve.

In Movement 2, She Dreams, the next generation spends her days trapped, speaking other people’s words and ideas. Yet inside her, she holds dreams of her own stories and her own identity, and being recognized for her own worth.

Movement 3, She Speaks, explores vocal percussion and extended vocal techniques. The women gradually find their voices and speak out, with difficulty and first but with increasing confidence- This. Is. Wrong! This movement honors those who would no longer stay silent in the face of injustice.

Movement 4, She Rages!, is the most specific and direct response to current events. The voices of women, silenced for too long, break free- and they are furious! Each voice demands to be heard as they build on one another. The movement transitions into a triumphant march honoring the women that came before them, referencing each of the previous movements in both text and music.

The ending, co-written by both composers, ties off the thread that wove through each movement. All the voices, men and women, speak together to convey one unified message: It is more important now than ever to find the courage to listen and to speak out.

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My brand-new piece Lotus Flower for SA and Piano, commissioned by Ruth Ballenger, is receiving its world premiere next Thursday April 26th by the Ramona Convent Secondary School Chamber Singers. This piece was particularly exciting for me to compose because it sets the anthemic text by Analisa Vanegas (’18), who is an RCSS graduating senior this year. It … Continue reading April 14th, 2018

Lotus Flower, commissioned by Ruth Ballenger and dedicated to The Ramona Convent Secondary School Chamber Singers, sets the beautiful poem by Analisa Vanegas (Ramona Convent Secondary School, ’18) for SA Choir and Piano. The use of body percussion and rhythmic vocal lines bring out the anthemic nature of the text, which calls the younger generation to “value the oppressed” and “influence inspirations” as they grow into adults.

This piece is suitable for any treble voiced ensemble, high school choir, or choir looking to explore body percussion and syncopated rhythms.

Premiere: April 28th, 2018 at San Marino Community Church

 

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As Time Stops To Rest is a three-movement song cycle for SSAATTBB Choir and Piano, with featured soprano and tenor soloists. The cycle is dedicated to the composer’s late aunt Susan Jordan. The works sets three poems from a larger set of poetry entitled As Time Stops To Rest, also written by Susan Jordan. The song cycle has an overall arch form of peace followed by tragedy and loss, ultimately giving way to a final sense of peace.

The first movement, Two Friends, paints a peaceful scene of two friends losing track of time as they sit by the ocean enjoying their time together. The piece opens with serene rolled chords in the piano, which continue throughout almost the entirety of the movement. The constant rolling of the piano creates a sense of ocean waves continuously ebbing and flowing. The opening tenor solo describes the tranquil setting and is then joined by the full choir as “warmth and happiness intermix to form an afternoon shared by two close friends”. The movement features lush harmonies and detailed ensemble interplay. The movement concludes with the continued rolled chords in the piano and a final soft low cluster, as if the texture is sinking into the ocean.

The second movement, Storm’s End, opens with violent and flurried storm-like arpeggios in the piano, in stark contrast to the peaceful character of Two Friends. The tenors and basses open with a rigid imitative texture asserting how “the storm raged across the bliss field”. The piano then mimics raindrops falling more and more violently before finally giving way to a calmer texture. After the “storm” has ended, the full choir enters in a mostly homophonic, hymn-like texture describing an overwhelming peace that sometimes follows after an intense tragedy or loss. The piece climaxes on the words “day” and “fire”, alluding to the feeling of being in love with one’s life despite (and perhaps because of) the pain and suffering one has endured.

The third and final movement, Magic, describes how the narrator senses the closeness of “the spirit kingdom” all around him or her, but only has fleeting glimpses of it. The piece opens with an a cappella dialogue between the altos and tenors, who are then joined by the sopranos and basses. The a cappella opening features lush and tightly packed harmonies that lead to a soprano soloist cueing in a lyrical piano arpeggio. The piece then builds to the joyous climax of the whole song cycle: “But oh, for a moment I grow flowers with my hands!”, alluding to how powerful and wondrous these brief glimpses of the spirit kingdom are. The texture then drops down to lulling a cappella chords in the lower voices as two featured soprano soloists “dance on wings uplifted”. The narrator then finally enters “the kingdom of all” he or she has been sensing, possibly through death. The movement concludes peacefully as the narrator “enter[s] the kingdom of all and AM”. The piano concludes with a peaceful postlude recalling motives used throughout the movement.

This song cycle would be suitable for an advanced high school, college, or professional choir. The movements may be performed as stand-alone pieces or as part of the full cycle.

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“Magic” (the third and final movement of the choral song cycle As Time Stops To Rest) describes how the narrator senses the closeness of “the spirit kingdom” all around him or her, but only has fleeting glimpses of it. The piece opens with an a cappella dialogue between the altos and tenors, who are then joined by the sopranos and basses. The a cappella opening features lush and tightly packed harmonies that lead to a soprano soloist cueing in a lyrical piano arpeggio. The piece then builds to the joyous climax of the whole song cycle: “But oh, for a moment I grow flowers with my hands!”, alluding to how powerful and wondrous these brief glimpses of the spirit kingdom are. The texture then drops down to lulling a cappella chords in the lower voices as two featured soprano soloists “dance on wings uplifted”. The narrator then finally enters “the kingdom of all” he or she has been sensing, possibly through death. The movement concludes peacefully as the narrator “enter[s] the kingdom of all and AM”. The piano concludes with a peaceful postlude recalling motives used throughout the movement.

As Time Stops To Rest is a three-movement song cycle for SSAATTBB Choir and Piano, with featured soprano and tenor soloists. The cycle is dedicated to the composer’s late aunt Susan Jordan. The works sets three poems from a larger set of poetry entitled As Time Stops To Rest, also written by Susan Jordan. The song cycle has an overall arch form of peace followed by tragedy and loss, ultimately giving way to a final sense of peace.

Magic may be performed as part of the entire song cycle or as a stand-alone piece.

Also see the first movement Two Friends and the second movement Storm’s End.

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Three Lullabies is a three-movement song cycle for Mezzo Soprano, Tenor, and Piano. This suite of lullabies is rhythmically, melodically, and harmonically accessible to children and would fit nicely into any classical concert for children or a younger audience.

 

The first song Nini Baba Nini, from the book The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye, is a sweet Hindi text that describes the happiness of being able to provide food, and thus sleep, for one’s child. The setting of this poem superimposes the English translation against the original Hindi text.

 

The second song Villanelle of Sunset is a text by Ernest Dowson. A villanelle is traditionally a nineteen-line poem containing only two rhymes, “rest” and “day” in this villanelle. The melody and accompaniment are reminiscent of an American folk tune to reflect the strong imagery of the West in the text.

 

The third song In the Morning sets the text written by Amy Gordon. The music is simple and gentle in order to lull a child to sleep, despite the difficult conditions in the outside world.

 

 

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The Traveler is an art song for Tenor (or possibly Baritone) and piano that explores the mindset of a traveler or vagabond as he or she explores the world. The text, also written by Amy Gordon, describes the traveler’s eternal struggle between calling somewhere home and an intense desire to be freely roam.

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The Midnight Whistler was inspired after a friend and I decided to take a walk late one night. While we were walking, an unseen man in a window started whistling. We paused and turned around to see who it was, but the man stopped whistling as soon as we stopped walking. He would only resume his whistling after we resumed our walking. I never learned who this whistler was, but the powerful image of a lone man singing to the night stayed with me. I decided to write a song chronicling the mindset of such a figure, and titled it “The Midnight Whistler”. This character has no friends but the night he whistles to, although he desperately watches and longs for a companion. The song has an overall ABA’ structure. The A section is largely strophic, while the B section has a slower, contrasting melodic line. To further set the mood of loneliness and longing found in the text, the aurally unsettling augmented chord, an easily invertible stack of major 3rds with no definite root, is used often throughout the accompaniment. The piece concludes with a whistled variation of the main melody found in the A section. The final chord employs an augmented chord against a g minor tonic, never giving the listener a satisfying tonal conclusion to the song.

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A Minuet of Mozart’s sets this musical poem by Sara Teasdale. The poem is filled with musical imagery such as “the violin” drawing “wefts of sound” as they “airily […] wove and wound and glimmered gold against the gloom”. The music creates a sense of magic that dissipates “at the pausing of the bow”. The musical setting has a dance-like waltz pattern paired with darker chromatic undertones, referencing both the magic of the music and the return to “wave of night” when it stops.

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A Broken Appointment sets the Thomas Hardy poem of the same title. The text describes a heart broken man who wishes his love interest would give him the gift of showing up for their romantic meeting, even if he knows she has no interest in him. The music reflects the sense of missed love through a chiming motive in the piano, referencing the ever-ticking clock marching on even through heartbreak.

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