I’m Still Here, the sixth poem from Ocean Poems, sets the beautiful poem of the same name by Jonathan Talberg, Director of Choral, Vocal, & Opera Studies at California State University, Long Beach. The poem is dedicated to Al Talberg (1928-2018), Dr. Talberg’s father. The piece opens with an insistent rhythmic motor, which is passed among the parts throughout the piece. The constant motion of the repeated text symbolizes the continuing presence of our loved ones, stating “I’m here. I’m still here.”. This rhythmic motif continues in various permutations until the final chord, finally resting on the words “I’m still here twixt sea and sky”, reminding us that our loved ones are always with us.

 

This piece may be performed as a stand-alone piece or paired with When We’re Gone 10,000 Years as a complete suite. This piece would be suitable for advanced high school, collegiate, and professional choirs.

Continue reading I’m Still Here

When We’re Gone 10,000 Years from Ocean Poems sets the beautiful poem of the same name by Jonathan Talberg, Director of Choral, Vocal, & Opera Studies at California State University, Long Beach. This piece uses hocket-like interplay between the vocal parts and metric displacement to create rhythmic propulsion. There is a limited set of rhythmic motifs used throughout the piece, including eighth note and quarter note trios, triplets, and metric displacement. The technique of text painting is used for certain words to bring the text to life, such as soaring, howling, and tumbling.

 

This piece may be performed as a stand-alone piece or paired with I’m Still Here as a complete suite. This piece would be suitable for advanced high school, collegiate, and professional choirs.

Continue reading When We’re Gone 10,000 Years

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.

Continue reading She Speaks (Choral Song Cycle)

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.

Continue reading As Time Stops To Rest (Choral Song Cycle)

“Storm’s End” (the second movement of the choral song cycle As Time Stops To Rest) 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.

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.

Storm’s End may be performed as part of the song cycle or as a stand-alone piece.

Also see the first movement Two Friends and the third movement Magic.

Continue reading Storm’s End

Lorem Ipsum is an a cappella piece for SATB, with occasional divisi. The text of Lorem Ipsum originates from the non-sense Latin used as filler text in media design, such as newspaper and newsletter templates. The non-sense Latin is a useful way for designers to see how the layout will look with text, without the distraction of real words.

 

“Lorem Ipsum” sets this Latin text in a chant-like fashion, reminiscent of Gregorian chants containing actual Latin text. The voices weave in and out of each other, creating rich and surprising harmonies. This piece plays with the juxtaposition of ancient-sounding Latin combined with modern, tight choral harmonies.

Continue reading Lorem Ipsum

A Boat Beneath A Sunny Sky is the closing poem of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The first letter of every line of text spells out the name Alice Pleasance Liddell, whom Carroll was (scandalously) very close to and was said to have inspired his book. The musical setting of the poem captures the wonder of childhood but also the dark nostalgia that accompanies the passage of time.

Continue reading A Boat Beneath A Sunny Sky