Anniversaries: How to look ahead

LakeEolaFireworksHappy anniversary!

With this newsletter, I celebrate my one-year publication anniversary. In case you missed that first issue, you can still see it here (and all the issues are listed here). Thank you to everyone for taking the time to share in my adventures of the past year. I hope they have been as enjoyable for you to read as for me to write!

While we often stop at the end of the calendar year to review where we’ve been and plan for the next year, it can be helpful to have a checkup and review at any anniversary moment. Where were you one year ago today? What have you accomplished in the last year? Did you meet your goals? If not, where did you fall short? Did you manage to completely blast them out of the water? How much further would you like to go in the next year? What can you do today to move you closer to where you’d like to be?

Current Assessment

One of the magnets on our fridge is a quote from Teddy Roosevelt: “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have!” To plan for the future, you have to start with the present. Where are you now? What skills and resources do you have now? It doesn’t matter if you don’t like your current situation. Ignoring a problem or difficulty, won’t make it go away — it might just make it worse. Far better to know what is the status quo rather then pretend it to be different. To plan a trip, you not only have to know the destination, but you’re starting point as well. If you are trying to get to Carnegie Hall, it’s a completely different trip to plan if you are starting in Florida, Peru, or lower Manhattan. Trying to fly there from lower Manhattan makes as much sense as trying to walk there from Peru. Sometimes the preferred means of progress (flying in this case) might not be the best option. The only way to know is a thorough evaluation of the current state of affairs.


Despite many people’s fascination with the law of attraction, I think one of the other key points from Teddy Roosevelt’s quote above is the first word: Do. Newton formulated the law in physics that tells us a body at rest tends to stay at rest and a body in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Wishing or planning how to accomplish something is not the same as doing. Even Yoda urges us to action: “Do or do not. There is no try.” Our modern day GPS devices are excellent at getting us from point a to point b, as long as we are in motion. If we miss a turn, it will recalculate and adapt. If we stop moving, I’ve seen many GPS devices get confused and start giving very odd instructions. Just like pilots on a long-distance flight, we need to start moving in the general direction, and then make adjustments as we approach our destination. While planning can be an appropriate action, just don’t expect it to get you to the destination without starting up the engine and moving.

CFCArtsMozartSingleMassMoving Forward

While I may still be in the patient maintenance mode of preparing the next crop, there is a concert this Friday that I will be playing. Last year in my first newsletter issue, the concert was Mozart’s Requiem. This year, it’s the Mass in C Minor, K 427. (I think next summer, we’ll be planning something other than Mozart.)

I find it interesting to note that Mozart left this piece unfinished. As we take a moment to celebrate this newsletter anniversary, what projects have you left unfinished? One that I recently was able to finish was to get the video from a performance in May up on-line. You can now hear the Bel Canto Choir of Gateway High School under the direction of Chris Barletta sing my composition Faith is Like a Mystic Spirit (text by John Dalles) by clicking here. Now I need to finish up that other piece I started for them…

Hoping your projects come to a happy conclusion,

Newsletter Issue 26 – 2014 08 05
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Faith Is Like a Mystic Spirit

Written May 11-2, 2014 for Chris Barletta and the Women’s Choir of Gateway High School in Kissimmee, Florida, with the first performance given at the Baccalaureate Mass at the end of May 2014. The text is by John Dalles and is included in the collection We Turn to God published by Wayne Leupold Editions.

The piece is scored for SSA with piano accompaniment. It is fairly easy and very tonal. Expected duration: c. 2’30”

Summer adventures

CarlMaultsByGlennOsborneSmGod Is Gone Up

Last Thursday, it was my pleasure to attend the festival choral Eucharist at St. Richard’s Episcopal Church in Winter Park where the St. Richard’s Schola under the direction of Dr. Carl MaultsBy gave the premier performance of my composition God Is Gone Up. I was very fortunate to be accompanied by a classmate from Westminster Choir College who blogs about her church visits. You can read her write up about the experience at Some Disagree with Mom. As it seems few churches actually celebrate on Ascension on Thursday in this area, there were several other musicians in attendance, and probably the best compliment I received was when one of the other musicians made a request to purchase copies of the score after the service was over! I want to express my gratitude to Carl for requesting this piece and giving me the opportunity to add another useful composition to my output.

Premiers and Classical

CFCArts_MozartsMass_Poster_B-667x1024Both the Bel Canto Choir of Gateway High School and the Holy Redeemer School Choir did admirably with the other premier performances last week. I am sad that I was not able to capture audio for the performance of God, Your Golden Doorway Beckons, but hopefully I will be able to post audio or video for the other two pieces sometime soon.

After a three premiers last week, this week ushers in a return of my accompanying and directing responsibilities with the kick off to the summer season of the CFCArts Classical Choir. We are still looking for singers for the Mass in C Minor (K. 427) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Rehearsals will be on Thursday evenings with one concert performance on Friday, August 8, at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Winter Park, FL. If you are in the area, I encourage you to come and join the group!

Organ Improvisation

In addition to creating music for people such as the premiers or with people like the Classical Choir, I have been fascinated by the skills necessary to create music on the spot, especially at the organ. For that reason, I started a website a few months ago I am pleased to announce that the site has been greatly expanded and that there is now a lesson handout on how to improvise a French toccata available when you sign up to receive the newsletter. I also just completed a newsletter series on the Four C’s of Improvisation that include a few helpful hints on becoming a better improviser. Even if you believe learning to improvise might be out of your reach, you could check out all the videos or recordings for some inspiration. I believe every musician should be able to improvise and can learn to do so if willing to practice.


One of the events I always look forward to attending is the AGO national convention. This year it will take place in Boston, one of my favorite cities. While there are many different events to attend, you can be sure to find me at the events where improvisation will be the focus. I compiled a list of them here if you will be at the convention and wish to find me.

This year will be the first year that I attend the conference of the Association of Anglican Musicians. Last summer, I was able to attend the RSCM Course in Tulsa, so I am looking forward to attending a conference with more people who run RSCM programs. As an extra bonus, I’ll get to stop by New York City in between the two conferences and play for the Orlando Deanery Choir at St. Thomas. While I would not normally be excited about two weeks on the road, the music making and chance to see many friends make me look forward to this extended trip. If you will be at either of these conferences, I hope we can find each other and at least say hello!
Hoping you have a fun and adventuresome summer!


Newsletter Issue 23 – 2014 06 02
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Premier of Faith Is Like a Mystic Spirit

A new composition by Wm. Glenn Osborne with lyrics by John Dalles will be premiered during the baccalaureate service of Gateway High School by the Bel Canto Choir under the direction of Chris Barletta. Faith Is Like a Mystic Spirit is for SSA choir with piano accompaniment. The lyrics are published in the collection of hymn texts We Turn to God published by Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc.

Premier of God, Your Golden Doorway Beckons

A new composition by Wm. Glenn Osborne with lyrics by John Dalles will be premiered during the baccalaureate service of Gateway High School by the Bel Canto Choir under the direction of Chris Barletta. Further details about the event will be posted once the piece is actually written! Check back soon for more info.

This event has been replaced by the Premier of Faith Is Like a Mystic Spirit.

God, Your Golden Doorway Beckons will be premiered on May 30 (in unison) at the Graduation Mass for Holy Redeemer Catholic School. More information about that event is available here.

The Chariot Rolls On!

The Chariot Rolls On

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!

CFCArts_MozartsMass_Poster_B-667x1024Classical Choir

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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God, Your Golden Doorway Beckons

Written May 9-10, 2014 for the Bel Canto Choir of Gateway High School under the direction of Chris Barletta. The text is by John Dalles. Music is scored for three part women’s choir with piano accompaniment. It was one of two pieces written for use at the Baccalaureate service at the end of the school year. The piece celebrates the success of graduation while looking forward to all the possibilities and challenges of the future. It will be premiered (in unison) at the Graduation Mass for Holy Redeemer Catholic School.

How to write a piece of music


This past Friday, I went over to Gateway High School to hear the Bel Canto Choir rehearse the piece I wrote for them with a text by Emily Dickinson: The Chariot. It is always such a thrilling moment for me to hear a group actually sing something that I’ve put down on paper, and I am very much looking forward to the premier performance tonight during their spring concert! I hope to be able to post a video after the event is over. (Now available here.)

Their director, Chris, and I were still discussing interpretation ideas when the next group came in for class. He introduced me to them and offered them the opportunity to ask me questions about the composition process. The first question I was asked reminded me of the questions I had been asked when I first went to hear the Bel Canto Choir last fall, both of which were some form of: How do you choose what notes to put on the page? In each case I referenced a quote which I finally looked up from Igor Stravinsky: “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self.” I remember hearing this first from my own first composition teacher who explained that when asked simply to compose a piece of music, even the great Stravinsky was at a loss as to what to write, but as soon as you told him that you needed a piece for -choose your favorite and most peculiar set of instruments (accordion, kettle drum, flute and viola, for example)- he had lots of ideas.

Five Ws

The five Ws are questions for gathering basic information: Who, What, Where, When, Why. Just like the five vowels include a “and sometimes ‘y'”, we could add ‘How’ to this list of questions words. Just like Stravinsky, the more information I have regarding these topics, the easier it is for me to write a piece.


Generally I need to have an idea of who will be singing or performing the composition I am to write. This will enable me to determine instrumentation and help identify the difficulty level. An amateur choir does not have the same musical skills as a professional octet, and if the brass ensemble is two trumpets and two trombones, writing a tuba or French horn part does not respect who the group is.


For choral pieces, what is the text? Is this a concert piece or a piece for worship? What addresses The answer to what sort of piece this is addresses the form the composition will take.


Is this piece for a small church covered in carpet, a large resonant acoustic, or Yankee Stadium? The performance venue can influence the style of writing or the form of the piece.


This can be a very critical question for style. How long until the performance? How many rehearsal will the group have. I always strive to write pieces that will be successful not simply in and of themselves, but for the performers as well. Giving a group with little rehearsal time a piece that is too difficult to learn only will result in either frustration, a poor performance, or even a cancellation. Not good.


This question for we is the one most closely related to musical style. What sort of affect is desired or intended by the composition? Is this a piece meant to convey joy or grief? Anger or delight? Severity or lightheartedness? Music has a message to convey, and that message is the why of the piece.

Craft vs. Inspiration

I studied harmony and counterpoint for several years, in addition to creating music on the spot through improvisation. Through a regular process of writing psalm settings, I feel I have developed a solid craft of composition. While a dash of inspiration may help the process along, as Stravinsky also said, “Composers combine notes, that’s all.” Plumbers and electricians do not wait for inspiration in order to work. People don’t wait for inspiration to have conversations. If music truly is a language, musicians should be skilled in the craft enough to converse and not have to wait for inspiration or rely on the “words” of someone else. In the past, formation as a musician included the ability to compose. Could the lack of instruction in composition now be one of the reasons “classical” music, including symphony orchestras and opera companies struggle to continue operations?

Writing a piece of music for me involves answering the 5 Ws and then applying the skills I have learned to communicate (or enable the performance group to communicate) a message appropriate for their skill level, the forces available, the venue, time and occasion of the event. Each of the three premiers coming up this month were easy to write because I had lots of solid answers to those questions. Do you need a piece for your group? Can you answer the 5 Ws for me? If so, send me your answers and I’ll see if I can add you to my calendar of events.

Wishing you all the best!


Newsletter Issue 21 – 2014 05 05
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