The Chrism Mass is the annual celebration where the archbishop blesses the oils for use throughout the archdiocese and the priests renew their vows of service. It is one of the events that generally fills the Cathedral every year. As with other special diocesan celebrations, these are people that have chosen to be here, so are willing to sing and participate. Here’s the responsorial psalm (from the Audubon Park Psalter)recorded by my iPhone placed on the organ console in the balcony. Brass are to my right. Choir is on the left, and the cantor is in the pulpit half-way down the building.
The music for this composition is included in the Feasts and Solemnities volume of the Audubon Park Psalter.
Thanks to the snow storm, I was able to spend a couple of hours at the Cathedral today practicing. After some more technical exercises, I started flipping through the hymnal and improvising on different tunes. Marty Haugen’s ‘Gather Us In’ is an up-tempo tune that is more often associated with piano and guitars than the organ. I decided to slow it down and spice it up a bit for a more relaxing prelude style piece. Enjoy!
This is my first video recorded at the Cathedral of Mary, Our Queen in Baltimore. There are two identical consoles for the organ at the cathedral and pipes at each end of the building. This excerpt from my Suite in French Classical Style on Vexilla Regis was recorded from the console in the sanctuary using only pipes from the gallery. Watch carefully to notice the delay between my fingers and the audio!
What a delight it was Monday evening to hear the Bel Canto Choir from Gateway High School under the direction of Chris Barletta give the premier performance of my composition, The Chariot. Knowing that the students had only a few rehearsals to learn the piece, I was quite pleased with the result. Check it out for yourself by clicking the picture below!
Faith Is Like a Mystic Spirit
At the conclusion of the piece as I was walking off stage, I told Chris that I’d have another piece for the group to learn for the Gateway High School Baccalaureate. By the end of the week, I had sent him a score for a new text by John Dalles, “God, Your Golden Doorway Beckons.” Unfortunately, it seems I took the text’s references to “a bold challenge we can claim…at the edge of what can be” a little too seriously and wrote a piece just out of reach for the number of rehearsal left. So I found another text (also by John Dalles) and produced something a little easier: “Faith Is Like a Mystic Spirit.” I went over to rehearse the choir last Friday and am now looking to the premier of this piece at the Gateway Baccalaureate on May 25.
Finishing a Piece
So what happens with “God, Your Golden Doorway Beckons”? The piece is written. Will it sit in a drawer until next year? Any one else interested in giving it a go? I love the text so much that I decided to program the piece with the school choir from Holy Redeemer for the eighth grade Graduation Mass. We won’t be able to sing all the harmony parts, but the melody alone (with piano accompaniment) will still provide a lovely rendition of this end of school year text. I may not have mentioned it in last week’s discussion of the 5 Ws, but it’s very difficult for me to write a piece of music if there is no ‘When’ on the calendar. Also, when the piece requires more than just one person to perform it, I never feel like it is truly finished until I’ve handed the score over to someone else to perform. This is when I realize what part of the music doesn’t exist on paper, and what I still need to write down. Even this scaled down performance with the school choir from Holy Redeemer will give me that opportunity I need to experience the piece and satisfies that “W’ that went missing on me.
40 Days After…
Sandwiched in between the graduation pieces above happens to fall the Feast of Ascension (40 days after Easter) and the premier of “God Is Gone Up” written for Dr. Carl MaultsBy and the St. Richard’s Schola. This is the second piece I’ve written for St. Richard’s and will make three premiers in one week! What an exciting way to bring the month of May to a close!
With all this talk about the end of the school year, it must mean that summer is almost here. For the past two years, I have had the pleasure of accompanying the CFCArts Classical Choir in their summer concerts. This summer, I will be playing for the group rehearsals and concert as they prepare the Mass in C Minor (K. 427) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. If you are in the Orlando area, I encourage you to sign up and join the group. Rehearsals will be on Thursday evenings starting June 5. I was able to perform this work with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Robert Shaw while I studied at Westminster Choir College, so I am looking forward to doing the piece again now almost twenty years later.
Wishing you a happy and safe Memorial Day and a beautiful start to your summer!
Newsletter Issue 22 – 2014 05 20
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Written on April 16, 2014 for Chris Barletta and the Women’s Choir of Gateway High School in Kissimmee, Florida, with an expected first performance in May 2014. The students selected a poem by Emily Dickinson as the text that they wanted me to set for them. The Chariot begins “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” and is a somber piece that suggested a chromatic language to me. While there is four-part divisi, the piece remains homophonic and there are many passages in only two parts. The choir is supported by the piano with a brief unaccompanied passage. A video of the first performance can be seen here.
Preparing for the two organ duet concerts with Jaime Carini created a very intense week. I hope you enjoyed the video from our first day of practice in the last newsletter. ( Click here in case you missed it or to see it again.) We also posted Promenade by Dello Joio from our practice session in Daytona here. By far, the most popular piece on the program was the set of waltzes by Johann Strauss Jr. transcribed for four feet. These were very challenging to learn as we often found ourselves playing the exact same notes right after each other. We had to practice slowly and watch where and how we moved to each note in order to make sure we didn’t step on each other or keep the other person from getting to the proper location. We even took a little video to see if we could spot any better ways to stay out of each others way. Have a look and see for yourself: Pedal Practice for Strauss Waltzes.
Naji Hakim – The Apostles
It was a great joy to play the US premier of movements from The Apostles by Naji Hakim. We have audio and video from both concerts, and I hope we will receive permission from Hakim to post a couple of excerpts on YouTube. We enjoyed doing these concerts together, and we both hope to be able to play the pieces again in other locations as well as actually learn all the movements of The Apostles.
John Stainer – The Crucifixion
After putting Jaime on the plane early Monday morning, I went up to Leesburg that evening to play for a rehearsal of The Crucifixion by John Stainer at Morrison United Methodist Church. When I last played the piece, I burned my hand the week before the concert, so had to play the piece using basically only my right hand and pedal with a few single notes by my left hand and a little assistance from my page turner for a couple of passages where Stainer requires the organist to play on two separate manuals. The concert is tonight at 7:30 pm. I am looking forward to it as not only a wonderful musical event for the Lenten season, but also as a chance to finally play the piece uninjured and pain free!
Even though I know many of you are not able to attend these events in person, I hope that the clips on YouTube provide some entertainment. Once this set of concerts is over, I hope to be able to post more videos of performances and improvisations in the next few months. I also wish to continue exploring how music gets both to and from the written page.
Hoping spring arrives in April!
Newsletter Issue 18 – 2014 03 31
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With additional orchestration, this is a live performance of Dilexisti Justitiam at the Missa Pontificalis in honorem Sanctae Venerandae (Virgin and Martyr).
Performers: Coro e Orchestra della Cappella Musicale della Venerabile Reale Cappella di Santa Venera, Acireale
Conductor: Alessandro Maria Trovato