<![CDATA[Choral Arts Initiative - Blog]]>Tue, 07 Nov 2017 13:23:10 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Spotlight: "O Vos Omnes" by Matthew Lyon Hazzard]]>Thu, 26 Oct 2017 23:36:34 GMThttp://choralartsinitiative.org/blog/spotlight-o-vos-omnes-by-matthew-lyon-hazzardO all you who walk by on the road,
Pay attention and see:
If there be any sorrow like my sorrow. 
Pay attention, all people, and look at my sorrow:
​If there be any sorrow like my sorrow.
An appropriate and moving text in light of the devastating recent losses through natural disasters and terrorist acts, this piece expresses both sorrow and comfort in its gorgeous flowing and lush sustained chords, which experience descent into despair, waves of sound that seem to be cries of grief - "Attendite!" - where pitch and volume reach the apex of expression, and then quiet comfort and peace at the end.

We first heard this young composer's work in April of 2016 for our concert entitled "Such Things As Flowers," which was highly praised by our Advisory Committee when it was submitted for review as part of our PREMIERE|Project. Now, a year and a half later, Hazzard is back for our November 5th Sacred Heart concert, not only as a composer on the program, but as a Choral Artist as well! Incredibly, his experience with us in 2016 influenced him to choose Southern California for his Graduate studies. Learn more and gain a deeper insight into Hazzard and his music through this Q&A we had with him about his journey with Choral Arts Initiative and his beautiful, meditative setting of this ancient prayer from the opening page of the book of Lamentations.
Q) What led you to first seek out Choral Arts Initiative to submit your work to the PREMIERE|Project?

A) A couple years back, I was “casting out fishing lines”, sending pieces of mine to composition competitions and seeing what would bite. After sending a few, I found Choral Arts Initiative’s PREMIERE|Project on The Composer’s Site, which is kind of the “go-to” hub for these sorts of things. The big thing that stood out to me was that every submission would get feedback from a distinguished review panel, so I decided to go for it. I had no idea that the piece I submitted, As Is The Sea Marvelous, would be so well received that CAI would want to perform it! That one submission completely changed my life.

Q) What led you to join CAI as a Choral Artist?

A) When I came to California for the west-coast premiere of As Is The Sea Marvelous, I got to witness CAI rehearse for a week straight. The music being made was so phenomenal -- just sitting in each rehearsal was like attending a private concert! The whole experience was so positive that I knew I had to make the next step in my career here in California, so I decided to relocate from North Carolina, and pursue my M.M. in Choral Conducting at California State University Long Beach.

Q) What was your experience like when you first worked with CAI as a Choral Artist?

A) 
It was gloriously humbling! Here I am -- a teacher of four years who hasn’t performed in a high level choir since college -- trying to sing tremendously difficult repertoire next to musicians who make it look easy. I felt so out of my league! Fortunately, when you sing with people this talented, their sound kind of spills into yours, and you become a better singer just by being in their presence. There are mental muscles being worked out that I haven’t used in years! But beyond the shell-shock of joining an ensemble of this caliber for the first time, it’s just a pure joy. It’s like singing with a choir of angels.

Q) Why did you choose the O Vos Omnes text to set to music?

A) The text to O Vos Omnes captures grief in a profound way. It doesn’t describe sorrow directly, or even speak of any kind of loss that could incite it. All it does is set a scene. “All you who walk by on the road, pay attention and see: if there be any sorrow like my sorrow.” The idea of someone asking the world if anyone can understand how they feel makes the sorrow they’re experiencing seem that much more vast -- so vast, that it’s incomprehensible. When I first read it, I felt swept up in that emotion, just trying to fathom it. The music came immediately from that.

Q) Describe your compositional process in writing this piece and the overall form of the work?

A) After ruminating on the text for a while, the piece kind of poured out of me once I focused on what being consumed in grief would feel like. When we experience a break down, we can only do so if we build up our emotions until they overwhelm us, causing us to crumble. That narrative is what drives the piece. It begins in a minor key, slow moving and steeped in pity. Slowly, it opens up, with the calls for attention become more desperate as our emotion build. When the texture grows to the point of saturation, we finally burst into a major triad at the crux of the piece, as if holding a smile to pull through the pain. Inevitably, this smile crumbles into grief, with a descending, mantra-like harmony that descends back into minor. At the end of our grief, though, we find resolution. Experiencing grief and processing it is also our method of overcoming it, which is why the piece resolves into a major chord.

Q) What do you want the audience to experience when they hear this piece?

A) I hope the audience hears the bitter-sweetness of sorrow. Grief doesn’t simply originate from a place of despair. It comes from loss: when we lose someone or something that is important to us. Someone or something that we loved. At the heart of sorrow is a memory of that love. Because of that, I find it impossible to feel sorrow without also being aware of the hope of relief or joy. They are two sides of the same coin.
Matthew Lyon Hazzard (b.1989) is a composer, conductor, and educator from North Carolina. Praised for his “exquisite text-setting” and ability to create “a stunning landscape of sound” (18th Street Singers), his choral music has been performed by professional and collegiate ensembles across the globe, including the Metropolitan Chorus of Tokyo, Choral Arts Initiative, the Emīls Dārziņš Mixed Choir, the Vancouver Chamber Choir, and more. ​He has also garnered a multitude of awards for his work an emerging composer and choral conductor. Matthew holds his B.M. in Music Composition and M.A.T from East Carolina University, and is currently pursuing an M.M. in Choral Conducting at California State University Long Beach, where he continues to write for voices.

Hear his beautiful and haunting new setting of the ancient "O Vos Omnes" text at our November 5th season 6 opening concert and silent auction event, Sacred Heart.


("O Vos Omnes" photo credit: Patheos. All rights reserved.)
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<![CDATA[Spotlight: Canti Augustini┬áby Alexander Levine]]>Thu, 19 Oct 2017 02:54:42 GMThttp://choralartsinitiative.org/blog/spotlight-canti-augustini-by-alexander-levineOne of the centerpieces of our upcoming concert on November 5th, Sacred Heartis the United States Premiere of Alexander Levine's Canti Augustini, a four-movement choral masterpiece that combines ancient texts, newly composed chant, and passages hearkening back to Renaissance polyphony, with modern modalities, harmonies, and structures, creating a sound scape that is both old and new, peaceful and exciting. Levine discusses the genesis of his Canti here.
Canti Augustini (St. Augustine Prayers) was commissioned by Vocal ensemble VOCES8, with no specific reference to textual material or plot, and was composed in the Spring of 2013. Nevertheless, my choice of content for this work was almost immediate. By that time, I just had finished reading the book of “The Confessions” by St. Augustine, the greatest religious philosopher and spiritual leader in the fourth century, A.D. I was completely smitten by his unique way of conducting such an eloquent and sometimes very personal dialogue with God in this book. It was really fascinating as I followed his path of thought in its progression and his immaculate logic. I admired his inquisitiveness and the way in which his wit was relentlessly appealing to the Creator of All in search of the Divine Truth.

St. Augustine's spiritual revelations struck me to the core, especially this particular passage: ”Thou made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose to Thee”, which became the inspirational point for me in structuring the entire piece. The structure of the work was intended as the piece in four parts, where each movement should reflect different aspects of St, Augustine's discourse, for example: from strength and sometimes disobedience in intellectual fight, or desire to achieve a goal in revealing uniqueness of himself to humbly withstanding as a child before God’s Eyes. All of this would allow me to outline the contextual shape of the piece as movements progress in their sequence: inquisitiveness, contemplation, praise and tranquillity.

Musical language and texture of Canti Augustini in relation to different textual implications varies from progressive counterpoint to homophonic texture, from reminiscence of Gregorian chant (no quotes applied) to hocketing technique or imitative polyphony. Harmonic language of Canti Augustini also takes its roots in Renaissance polyphony and progresses into various forms of modernity.

Canti Augustini is the work which was conceived as my intention to open hearts, minds and souls of people of all philosophical and religious approaches to the world of the beacon of the Eastern culture though St. Augustine’s heritage, and deliver the complexities of his thoughts through the means of choral music making it enjoyable for all.

​© 2017 Alexander Levine


TRANSLATION OF TEXTS

Magnus Es, Domine
Great art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy power, and Thy wisdom infinite. And Thee would man praise; man, but a particle of Thy creation; man, that bears about him his mortality, the witness of his sin, the witness that Thou resistest the proud: yet would man praise Thee; he, but a particle of Thy creation. Thou awakest us to delight in Thy praise; for Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee. Grant me, Lord, to know and understand which is first, to call on Thee or to praise Thee? and, again, to know Thee or to call on Thee? for who can call on Thee, not knowing Thee? for he that knoweth Thee not, may call on Thee as other than Thou art. Or, is it rather, that we call on Thee that we may know Thee? but how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? or how shall they believe without a preacher? and they that seek the Lord shall praise Him: for they that seek shall find Him, and they that find shall praise Him.

Noli abscondere a me facem tuam
Oh! that I might repose on Thee! Oh! that Thou wouldest enter into my heart, and inebriate it, that I may forget my ills, and embrace Thee, my sole good! What art Thou to me? In Thy pity, teach me to utter it. Or what am I to Thee that Thou demandest my love, and, if I give it not, art wroth with me, and threatenest me with grievous woes? Is it then a slight woe to love Thee not? Oh! for Thy mercies' sake, tell me, O Lord my God, what Thou art unto me. Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. So speak, that I may hear. Behold, Lord, my heart is before Thee; open Thou the ears thereof, and say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. After this voice let me haste, and take hold on Thee. Hide not Thy face from me. Let me die—lest I die—only let me see Thy face.

Quid Est Ergo
Oh! that I might repose on Thee! Oh! that Thou wouldest enter into my heart, and inebriate it, that I may forget my ills, and embrace Thee, my sole good! What art Thou to me? In Thy pity, teach me to utter it. Or what am I to Thee that Thou demandest my love, and, if I give it not, art wroth with me, and threatenest me with grievous woes? Is it then a slight woe to love Thee not? Oh! for Thy mercies' sake, tell me, O Lord my God, what Thou art unto me. Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. So speak, that I may hear. Behold, Lord, my heart is before Thee; open Thou the ears thereof, and say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. After this voice let me haste, and take hold on Thee. Hide not Thy face from me. Let me die—lest I die—only let me see Thy face.

Invocabo Deum
And how shall I call upon my God, my God and Lord, since, when I call for Him, I shall be calling Him to myself? and what room is there within me, whither my God can come into me? whither can God come into me, God who made heaven and earth? is there, indeed, O Lord my God, aught in me that can contain Thee? do then heaven and earth, which Thou hast made, and wherein Thou hast made me, contain Thee? or, because nothing which exists could exist without Thee, doth therefore whatever exists contain Thee? Since, then, I too exist, why do I seek that Thou shouldest enter into me, who were not, wert Thou not in me? Why? because I am not gone down in hell, and yet Thou art there also. For if I go down into hell, Thou art there. I could not be then, O my God, could not be at all, wert Thou not in me; or, rather, unless I were in Thee, of whom are all things, by whom are all things, in whom are all things? Even so, Lord, even so. Whither do I call Thee, since I am in Thee? or whence canst Thou enter into me? for whither can I go beyond heaven and earth, that thence my God should come into me, who hath said, I fill the heaven and the earth.

(Translations compiled by Brandon Elliott)


Alexander Levine is a Russian composer, based in England. He began studying music at age 6 at the Gnessin Music School, playing piano and clarinet, and he advanced to the Gnessin Music Academy, where he was a student from 1976 to 1980. He also played guitar in the Orchestra of Russian National Radio and Television. He became known as a composer and worked in Russia until 1992, when he moved to England. He won the Wingate Foundation scholarship to study composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he received his MA in 1995. Levine was commissioned to compose music for Peter Clough's production of War and Peace at London's Barbican, and later became involved with the restoration of The Beggar's Opera. Levine's setting of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom was performed by Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Opera Choir at the Easter Festival each year from 2008 to 2011. His catalog also includes chamber music and orchestral works. He has collaborated with artists as diverse as Maria Freedman, Christian Forshaw, the Stanzeleit/Jacobson Duo, Darragh Morgan, Mary Dullea, the Fidelio Trio, Konstantin Boyarsky, Jonathan Powell, Andrew McNeill, Bozidar Vukovic, the Tippett Quartet, the Orlando Consort, the BBC Singers, the Choir of the 21st Century, Tenebrae, the Mariinsky Opera Choir, the Russian State Orchestra “Novaia Rossia” and the Bel Canto Chorus.

Don't miss this United States premiere performance of Alexander Levine's Canti Augustini on November 5th at 5:00pm by Choral Arts Initiative, part of a concert of all religious-themed new music, Sacred Heart.
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<![CDATA[Meet the Tenor and Bass Choral Artists!]]>Thu, 13 Jul 2017 17:32:00 GMThttp://choralartsinitiative.org/blog/meet-the-tenor-and-bass-choral-artistsCreating the core and foundation of Choral Arts Initiative's choral sound are the Tenor and Bass Choral Artists! All these gentlemen are such fun people with great stories to tell, and their passion they express in their lives comes out in the passion they contribute to their choral art. Get to know the Tenors and Basses with some fun facts here, and then meet and hear them in person at our concert, "Seeking Light," this weekend, July 16 at 5pm! We look forward to meeting YOU, too!
(Top row, left to right)

Name: Yngwie Slassh Zamarippa 

Job: Cashier/Barista 
Fun Musical Fact: I studied advanced music analysis from the classical, romantic and 20th century period privately with Dr. Miller at Fullerton Jr. college and I want to be a professional orchestral director and composer. 
Fun Non-Musical Fact: I love the beach, coffee, math, and the gym. I've done all the push-ups

Name: Ashton Hackwith
Job: Bass Section Leader at Palisades United Methodist Church; 
Fun Musical Fact: I sight read for fun
Fun Non-Musical Fact: I'm half British

Name: Marcos Torres
Job: I make coffee 
Fun Musical Fact: I am the youngest choral artist in CAI (19 years old) 
Fun Non-Musical Fact: I have studied 7 martial arts, I love to work on cars.

Name: Ramon Cardenas
Job: Choir Director at Redlands East Valley High School and First Congregational Church of Riverside 
Fun Musical Fact: For my senior recital, I played a Mozart theme with 12 variations with no sensation in my hands. I had just finished a 30-minute voice set and was clenching my fists for the majority of it, resulting in the lost of sensation. Luckily, I held it together!
Fun Non-Musical Fact: When I was three years old and my sister was a baby, I was not used to sharing my parents' attention with her. One day, to get my mom's attention, I wanted to show her I could swallow a marble. I began choking immediately, and she and my grandma both gave me the Heimlich.

Name: Joshua Himes
Job: Caseworker 
Fun Musical Fact: I'm a composer with choral music published with MusicSpoke, Gentry Publications and Santa Barbara Music Publishing, Inc.
Fun Non-Musical Fact: Went to Ayala High School in Chino Hills and I work about a mile from my former High School.

Name: DeJohn Brown Jr.
Job: High School Choral Director
Fun Musical Fact: Kendrick Lamar is my favorite hip hop artist.
Fun Non-Musical Fact: I love Unicorns

Name: Marcus Carline

Job: Sound Technician at CSULB, Bass Section leader at Covenant First Presbyterian, Composer, Baritone/VP with Westbeat
Fun Musical Fact: I enjoy patching in Max/MSP and have built a couple of virtual vocoders.
Fun Non-Musical Fact: I had planned to be a computer scientist up until Jr year of high school, so I can code in Java and C++

(Bottom row, left to right)

Name: Herman Hope
Job: Server at Farrell's
Fun Musical Fact: I was in 5 musical ensembles during my undergrad but got my degree in English! 
Fun Non-Musical Fact: I recently learned I love swans and geese.

Name:  Sammy Salvador
Job: Music Education Major at Cal State Fullerton
Fun Musical Fact: My grandpa was the leader of a very famous Cumbia band in Tijuana, Mexico
Fun Non-Choral Fact: I've recently been getting a lot of gigs as a choreographer.

Name: Alan Garcia
Job: Choir Director at Magnolia High School, Cantor and Section Leader at St. Norbert's Catholic Church, and Staff Singer at Pacific Chorale
Fun Musical Fact: I carry Hindemith's Elementary Training for Musicians in my bag to practice sight reading when I'm bored. I'll shamelessly practice when I'm waiting for my meal at dinner, when I'm on the train, or when I'm selling fireworks for my school district. 
Fun Non-Musical Fact: When I travel, you can usually find me scoping out the beautiful churches and cathedrals in the area. I'm huge on beautiful architecture! I also love visiting old towns! 

Name: Jeffrey Derus
Job: HS Choral Director/Composer
Fun Musical Fact: When I was a child I used to plug my ears at my sister's choral concerts; now I direct choirs, sing in choirs, and write for choirs. 
Fun Non-Musical Fact: I have a deep passion for interior design. I redesign my apartment every 6 months. 

Name: Israel Acosta
Job: Super Hero
Fun Musical Fact: I've played the saxophone for 6 years
Fun Non-Musical Fact: I enjoy rock climbing and laser tagging to pass the time.
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<![CDATA[Meet the Soprano and Alto Choral Artists!]]>Mon, 10 Jul 2017 23:40:51 GMThttp://choralartsinitiative.org/blog/meet-the-ladies-of-choral-arts-initiativeBeautiful, floating, pure tones are created by the Soprano and Alto Choral Artists to contribute to the sonorous sound of the ensemble, but they are also people.  We wanted to share a little bit about themselves and some fun facts, both relating to music and non-musical in nature. Get to know these Choral Artists and their fun-facts here, and then meet them in person this Sunday, July 16, at our 5th Anniversary Concert, "Seeking Light!"
(Left to Right, Top Row)  

Name: Shirley Chikukwa (Alto)
Job: Event planning assistant
Fun Musical Fact: I was an accounting major before I discovered the joys of singing! I'm never going back to accounting️.
Fun Non-Musical Fact: I like to swim and I loooove historical drama. 

Name: Adena Bentley (Alto)
Job: Stylist at Torrid
Fun Musical Fact: I initially only decided to major in music because I was accepted into Fullerton College's Applied Voice program, and I felt it would be rude not to stay in it. 
Fun Non-Musical Fact: I spent a month in China trough a cultural exchange program in 2009. 

Name: Anna Kietzman (Soprano)
Job: Guest Talent Coordinator at Disneyland Resort
Fun Musical Fact: I played the Cat in the Hat in my high schools production of Seussical the Musical and Tranio in Taming of the Shrew. Both roles are traditionally played by males. 
Fun Non-Musical Fact: I am also a visual artist, specializing in photography, watercolor painting, and hand lettering. 

Name: Carrie Dike (Alto)
Job: Hopeful
Fun Musical Fact: I sang in Irish pubs for research (DMA in Ethnomusicology).
Fun Non-Musical Fact: I've been to 33 countries and counting.

Name: Stacy Oh (currently Alto)
Job: Vocal Music Director
Fun Musical Fact: Up until High School I thought everyone had absolute pitch.
Fun Non-Musical Fact: I am a fan of SEGA Saturn and Dreamcast.

Name: Kelsey Downey (Soprano)
Job: Legal Analyst 
Fun Musical Fact: Studied Persian music in college
Fun Non-Choral Fact: I enjoy swing dancing and Irish step dancing 

Name: Fatima Rizvi (Soprano)
Job: Voice Teacher and Development at Irvine Barclay Theater
Fun Musical Fact: I played the flute for 10 years before I tried singing. I didn't think I would like it!
Fun Non-Musical Fact: I like cheese!!! (I really do! You don't even know!)

(Left to Right, Bottom Row)

Name: Angel Yu (Alto)

Job: Freelance choral singer/private voice & piano lessons instructor.
Fun Musical Fact: There was a period of time of about 1.5 months last year where I had some sort of a choir rehearsal every night Monday- Friday, plus Saturday and Sunday mornings. Eww.
Fun Non-Musical Fact: When I was in the 6th grade, I won my school's spelling bee. I can't remember what the winning word was, though. :-P

Name: Lorraine Joy Welling (Soprano)
Job: Choral Instructor at Ball Junior High (AUHSD)/Cantor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, La Habra/professional singer
​Fun Musical Fact: I was chosen to be a soloist for a performance of Handel's "Dixit Dominus" the weekend of my 19th birthday by Sir David Wilcocks himself.
Fun-Non Musical Fact: I used to be (and secretly still am) obsessed with obscure Sci-Fi shows Quantum Leap, Sea Quest, and Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Name: Hannah McMeans (Soprano)
Job: Summer Associate at Venable, LLP until the end of July, then back to being a law student for one more year.
Fun Musical Fact: The only piece I've ever sung in Carnegie Hall had no words (Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe with the Boston Symphony).
Fun Non-Musical Fact: My favorite TV show ever is The West Wing and my latest TV obsession is Chef's Table.

Name: Rose Taylor (Alto)
Job: Student at Cal State Fullerton
Fun Musical Fact: I can play the tenor recorder... barely!
Fun Non-Musical Fact: I have a secret obsession with microbiology, and am saving up for my own microscope!
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<![CDATA[Composer Spotlight: Jeffrey Derus, "My Heart is a Compass"]]>Fri, 07 Jul 2017 22:35:44 GMThttp://choralartsinitiative.org/blog/composer-spotlight-jeffrey-derus-my-heart-is-a-compassPicture
My heart is a compass
Guiding me to light
When darkness chases the fading day
My heart, a star in the night

When salty waves are clawing near
And troubled waters assail the ship
My compass guides me,
Steadies my grip

When winds sing high,
Gust and gale cast adrift
My compass hoists me
Like wind beneath wingtip

When rope tears, sails shudder,
And death by tempest is near
My compass delivers me
I follow the arrow without fear

My heart is a compass
Guiding me to light
When darkness seduces
My faithful heart, a star in the night


     - Courtney Prather


As co-founder of Choral Arts Initiative, a founding board member and Choral Artist, Jeffrey Derus was the perfect fit to be one of the composers commissioned to write a piece for this special milestone, the fifth anniversary of the organization. He is also a close friend of Artistic Director, Brandon Elliott, having been at Cal State Fullerton as Music Majors at the same time. Although this is not the first piece of Derus to have been premiered and performed by Choral Arts Initiative, it is perhaps the most meaningful for both composer and Artistic Director.

“I have a personal connection to all we have accomplished," expressed Derus. "CAI is where I have experienced world-class performance, education and philanthropy. Witnessing so many wonderful collaborations throughout the years as a choral artist, I could not be more thrilled to be on the composer side for this season.”  In addition to writing a new work, Derus also commissioned poet Courtney Prather to write the text for the piece. "After some time with no luck finding the right text for this commission, I decided to partner with a good friend of mine and poet, Courtney Prather. We had many discussions on what we wanted this text to express; adventure, passion, a journey that encompasses light and dark. I have been with the organization and the ensemble since its inception and that also influenced the story line of the text for this commission. It’s a journey through struggles that can be guided by your heart, thus giving birth to the beautiful text, 'My Heart is a Compass,' by Courtney Prather."

The composition reflects the imagery of the text in overall structure as well as the music that accompanies specific words and phrases from the poem. The flow of the music reflects the ocean, following the path of a ship that is guided by the compass of the heart toward light, which Jeff feels strongly relates to the journey of CAI. The music begins with a swell of the female voices building a “wave” of music up to the highest peak, where the men join to reach the “heart,” “compass,” and the ultimate goal, “light.” The undulation of the ocean is a constant sound heard throughout the piece, with the voices rocking back and forth with patterns of eighth notes, triplets, and patterns of dotted eighths and sixteenth notes. The rhythmic patterns and the meters change with the changing tide of the ocean. There are challenges along the journey, personified in “troubled waters” – the sound crashing and ebbing as the waters “assail” the ship – but the compass of the heart always steers the boat clear; it “guides me/steadies my grip.”

A particularly poignant part of the piece comes in what Derus refers to like a scene from a movie that is suddenly set in slow-motion. The tempo gradually and consistently slows down, with ritardandos, fermatas, and written metronome changes, though the passage that says, “When rope tears, and sails shudder/ and death by tempest is near,” with a soaring soprano duet capping the phrase. The brief plaintive refrain and held high notes of the two sopranos are reminiscent of so many moments in movies when something is about to happen to a beloved character and everything slows down, tugging at our heart strings. But then, everything is ok. Softly, we are reminded, “My compass delivers me,” reassuring with the knowledge that “I follow the arrow without fear.” We then return to the swell of the wave triumphant, knowing that we can withstand whatever storms may be ahead; with our heart as that compass, we will always find the light.

"I want the audience to have an experience of excitement, suspense, and adventure, to feel the push and pull of the heart guiding them through the journey presented in the text." When asked what his favorite part of the piece was, he cited the last section of the piece. "This is the section where the push and pull of the heart climaxes in the phrase, 'My Heart is a Compass, Guiding me to light. When darkness seduces, My faithful heart, a star in the night.' This phrase is the message of the text and the piece. The chord on the word 'Heart' functions as a suspension both in the music and the story of the text." Another suspension comes at the very end of the piece, on the word "night." The same motive had repeated and been traded back and forth between different voice parts to depict the waves in the night, using a descending line going from B-flat to A-natural and ending on G before the motive starts over again, but when the final measure comes, the sopranos descend from the B-flat, which serves as the suspension before the final resolution to an A-natural, where it rests, completing the final D-major chord in the choir. Although the journey continues, we are safe; we are home. 

Born in California, Jeffrey’s major compositional influences come from the stunning array of natural landscapes throughout the Western Coastline. He is the co-founder of Choral Arts Initiative, and currently serves on the board and as a choral artist. As a professional choral artist, he has sung with the LA Philharmonic Symphonic Chorus, Pacific Symphony Chorus, Pacific Chorale and Choral Arts Initiative. Pursuing composition has always been a passion of his. Jeffrey has five choral pieces available through MusicSpoke, and his compositional journey continues. He recently attended his first composer residency in Aldeburgh, U.K. at Benjamin Britten's Red House, hosted by the Britten-Pears and Holst Foundation. Jeffrey holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Choral Music Education and Choral Conducting from California State University Fullerton. Upon graduation, Jeffrey’s passion for inspiring young musicians led him to further studies in CSUF’s Secondary Music Education Credential Program. Currently, Jeffrey serves as the Choral Director at Anaheim High School.

Don't wait! Get your tickets now to hear this piece, one of the five World-Premiere pieces written for Choral Arts Initiative's Fifth Anniversary celebration, "Seeking Light." Tickets include the concert and a reception where you can meet the Choral Artists, composers, Artistic Director, and Board Members of Choral Arts Initiative while enjoying food and drinks. You can be part of it on June 16th! Buy your tickets online by clicking here to save time and money at the door. See you there!

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<![CDATA[Composer Spotlight: David V. Montoya, "Light of Mary"]]>Sat, 01 Jul 2017 16:16:58 GMThttp://choralartsinitiative.org/blog/composer-spotlight-david-v-montoya-light-of-maryWhen David Montoya was originally approached to compose a piece for Choral Arts Initiative's fifth anniversary concert and celebration, Seeking Light, he had a completely different piece in mind that would utilize harp and a Buddhist text, but what ended up being written turned out completely different. Going back to his roots, he instead decided to set a Catholic prayer as a dedication for his mother. Picture
Immaculate Heart of Mary
listen while I plead to you
my dearest mother
for all my earthly needs.
Help me in my sorrows;
some joys to me afford.
Oh, dearest Mother Mary
help me serve my Lord,
and soon will be forgotten
all these sad days
as you light the road of darkness
with your own immaculate rays.


     - Traditional Catholic Prayer

"I was sitting at the ACDA National Conference in Minneapolis when I heard a conductor do a piece that he had commissioned in honor of his mother.  I thought to myself, 'my mom is 70 this year and I've never written a piece for her.'  I contacted her right away asking if she had any favorite texts and she sent me the text for LIGHT OF MARY.  She told me that she has prayed that prayer daily for over 50 years, since my did was in the US Army, and she still prays it to this day.  I began to compose the piece in my hotel room and finished it a few weeks later."

The piece is largely tonal with a linear structure, but there were many parts of the composition process that were unique to this composition. Even though the piece is based on a Catholic prayer, there are still some ideas and sonorities in the music that reflect Buddhist influence as well, which was the type of piece Montoya originally planned to write for CAI. Toward the end of the piece at the climax, "when the word 'darkness' comes in, if you know about Buddhist philosophy, there is the idea of opposites - nothing is really as it seems, everything is always constantly changing - so the darkness is actually one of the brighter chords you hear in the piece. The singers are saying 'darkness' but you're hearing a bright sonority, so you have this yin and yang type of thing going on."

Another unique part of the compositional process had to do with the "worldly" modes used. This technique is influenced by mentor and teacher William Allaudin Mathieu, much of whose music Montoya has also transcribed from manuscript. "When I land in a tonal center, major or minor," Montoya explains, "I use basically any tones that are available to me, within that context, from all of the church modes. You can call it quasi magic-mode music, as in Allaudin's book [the Harmonic Experience], but it's not really that.  So for example, if I'm in G where the soprano solo is, I can choose any notes from the parallel G modes that work well against the tonic-dominant drone in the choir. Eb is used from minor, Ab is the Phrygian note, F natural is the lowered sixth of minor, and even though the minor third Bb doesn't show up, it still sounds like minor until it lands with a gentle portamento down to the major third of G major at the end of the solo." Rare insight into the process and methodology of a composer!

The idea of divine light happens throughout the piece, which is aligned to the theme of the concert that was given to all five composers who received this commission for the fifth anniversary. "The piece moves in a line from beginning to end with the climax of light hitting just before the end.  Both the harmony and the rhythmic ideas try to depict the text with the ultimate goal of showing the shining light at the end." The words, ideas, and moods are expressed by changing harmonies. "I will usually outline a whole piece harmonically, where it's going, and what I'm doing. In fact, I outlined where I was going on my original page of text with which kind of chord progressions and what kind of center it was going around for some of the different lines of text that seemed to make sense to me. But in general, in this piece, I tried to be a little more free. I usually choose all my modes ahead of time to define where I'm going - not just major or minor modes, but world modes and some modes of my creation. It's still very tonal; there's always 'Do' present somewhere. But I didn't want to think about it too much this time. I usually like to compose at the piano, but this time I was in a hotel room typing things into the computer as they occurred to me with my headphones on. It seemed to go where it wanted to go this time, and I allowed it to do that, even if it was maybe not the most logical sometimes, but I think it turned out very logical, especially after listening to it live."

David Montoya sat in on a rehearsal to hear the ensemble sing through his piece, which was the first time he had heard it performed live by singers. He was very excited to hear it in person after only having heard it through MIDI on a computer, and the Choral Artists were enlightened by hearing his insight on the piece he had written for them and for his mother. This is an experience that lies at the very heart of what Choral Arts Initiative fosters in their mission and vision. This commission also was a welcome challenge for Montoya, much of whose work has been written for and performed by high school and University choirs (African Processional: Jambo rafiki yangu remaining his most popular and best-selling composition to date, with arrangements spanning across voicing for SAB, SSA, SATB, and TTBB). This piece was written for SSAATTBB to fit the complexity of music Choral Arts Initiative excels in. "I'm not as used to writing such thick sonorities - I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try some new things - and Choral Arts Initiative is singing it so beautifully. I'm loving hearing how the lines are working being handed off to one another."

"Writing for CAI has been a great joy for me.  I am amazed at the work that they have been doing to further the choral art.  Their tone, musicianship and musicality are the perfect environment for any composer to write in, and I am honored and humbled at the opportunity. I'm also thrilled that my mom will get a top-notch performance of this piece in the first performance of the first piece I've written for her." When asked what he wants the audience to hear or experience, he said, "If the audience closes their eyes, they should hear need, sorrow, joy, and then comfort in the form of divine light."

David V. Montoya (b. 1968) received a bachelor’s degree in music education from California State University, Los Angeles (1992) and a master of music degree from the University of Nevada, Reno (1998).  He has taught in the Southern California public school system for 23 years, currently teaching at both La Habra High School and Sunny Hills High School where he teaches choir and guitar.  In the 2009-2010 school year Montoya was named LHHS Teacher of the Year. As a composer, Montoya’s music, including African Processional: “Jambo rafiki yangu” has been performed throughout the world by high schools, colleges, churches, and such prestigious groups as the US Air Force Singing Sergeants, El Café Chorale (Costa Rica), the Kansas City Chorale, Louisiana State University A Cappella Choir, The Philippine Chamber Singers, and has had works commissioned and performed by the Grammy Award-winning Phoenix Bach Chorale.  His compositions range from a cappella and accompanied choral music, from the silly to the sacred, to works for solo voice, guitar, harp, piano, brass, ukulele, and even harmonica. Montoya currently serves as the Repertoire and Resources Chair for Choral Composition on the California branch of the American Choral Directors Association, and is a member of ASCAP.  Montoya has been a mentor to many up and coming teachers and finds himself fortunate to have worked closely with his own mentors, W. A. Mathieu and George Heussenstamm to name two.  Montoya lives in Southern California with his wife Patricia, his three sons, and Dusty, the family canine. For more information about him or his music, visit www.montoyamusic.com.

Make sure to get your tickets now to hear David V. Montoya's piece, "Light of Mary," in a concert about light that celebrates Choral Arts Initiative's fifth anniversary, Seeking Light: one performance only, July 16 at 5:00pm, St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, California.
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<![CDATA[Choral Arts Initiative, Chorus America, and ASCAP Award]]>Fri, 30 Jun 2017 02:47:41 GMThttp://choralartsinitiative.org/blog/choral-arts-initiative-chorus-america-and-ascap-awardLast week, Brandon Elliott and four board members of Choral Arts Initiative attended Chorus America's 2017 National Conference, held in Los Angeles, California, where the ensemble was awarded the ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music.
The 2017 Chorus America National Conference was held in Los Angeles, June 21-24, where representatives from choirs across the country came to learn, share ideas, share music, and be recognized. Choral Arts Initiative was honored to be one of those to be nationally recognized by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) at the Chorus America Conference with the award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music. Artistic Director Brandon Elliott received the award with CAI board members Jeffrey Derus, Rich Messenger, Evan Mooney, and Lorraine Joy Welling present. Special guests Krissy Evanilla and Lisa Murphy were also invited to join in our celebration.

Brandon Elliott was a presenter for a three-part seminar series he co-facilitated and helped develop called "The Choral Entrepreneur," offered as part of the Chorus America Conference. He also presented at the 2016 Chorus America Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, and will be presenting at their Conducting Academy in July held at California State University, Fullerton. Elliott was also selected as one of the 30 choral leaders from across the country to participate in the Choral Ecosystem Forum in April of 2016, which was a collaboration between Chorus America, the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), Barbershop Harmony Society, and Yale University School of Music, where the Forum was held.

In addition to the honors Choral Arts Initiative received as a group, we were happy to see composers we have worked with and whose music we have performed, premiered, and commissioned, who were participants, presenters, and whose music was being performed at the conference. Christina Whitten Thomas joined us to watch the first concert of the conference on Wednesday evening, where Vox Femina performed her piece, "Kindness," a piece that was commissioned by the group this year. Dale Trumbore was in a composer's forum as part of the seminar offerings of the conference, and she also had a new piece, "Breathe in Hope," performed by the Los Angeles Children's Chorus at a conference concert held at St. John's Episcopal Cathedral. "Hope" had been commissioned and premiered by the LACC in May of this year and used the Facebook text of Maya Jackson on the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Dominick DiOrio, a member of CAI's Artistic Advisory Committee, was often seen as a master of ceremonies and facilitator of seminars throughout the conference, and we also crossed paths with Saunder Choi, who is one of our five featured composers in our upcoming concert, Seeking LightChoral Artists Ashton Hackwith and Yngwie Zamarippa also came to join the week's festivities for Choir Night at Walt Disney Concert Hall, where Chorus America participants and members of local choirs had the opportunity to sing with composers Moira Smiley and Eric Whitacre prior to Los Angeles Master Chorale's concert that featured new music by these composers and the 20th Anniversary performance of Morten Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna.

Choral Arts Initiative was proud to be honored with the national ASCAP award and that our Artistic Director, Board Members, Choral Artists, and composers we have collaborated with had the opportunity to participate in and be part of the 2017 Chorus America Conference. In the words of Brandon Elliott, "So much excellent and transformative work is happening in our country thanks to so many stellar choral organizations. Amidst the dangerous and divisive rhetoric we confront, music will always rise from the "noise." I can't wait to see what's ahead for us and for the choral profession. Onward!"

Buy tickets now to see and hear this award-winning ensemble present their next concert of "Adventurous Programming," Seeking Light, and help us celebrate our five year anniversary with a reception following the concert. Don't forget to like our page on Facebook to keep up with all our latest happenings, to see more photos from the 2017 Chorus America National Conference, and to see video of the ASCAP award presentation to Choral Arts Initiative at the Conference.
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<![CDATA[Composer Spotlight: Dale Trumbore, "Perhaps"]]>Mon, 19 Jun 2017 22:35:20 GMThttp://choralartsinitiative.org/blog/composer-spotlight-dale-trumbore-perhapsAfter collaborating with Choral Arts Initiative since the group's beginning, including the recent eight-movement secular requiem, How to Go On, and an entire album of her choral music by the same name, Dale Trumbore was an obvious choice as one of the five composers whose music would be part of the fifth anniversary celebration and concert, "Seeking Light." What was surprising was the fact that her inspiration for the piece being performed, Perhaps, ended up coming from Brandon Elliott himself, the Artistic Director of the group. The words were part of his program notes that were read as the introduction to a previous concert, "Such Things As Flowers" last spring.  Even more surprising was that before Elliott approached Trumbore about the commission, she had already composed a piece as a gift.  The piece was completed and presented to Elliott and the Choral Artists at the conclusion of the recording sessions for How to Go On“Though Brandon's words weren't originally intended to be set to music, I thought they captured the essence of what Choral Arts Initiative does: 'Perhaps we may live an answer or illuminate a story.' This is why I love collaborating with Choral Arts Initiative, be it on a new piece, an old piece, or an entire album; this ensemble is committed to 'music that can teach and inspire,' and they sing it with such passion. I hope this anniversary is the first of many major milestones for Choral Arts Initiative!”
PERHAPS

In our lifetime, we will undoubtedly have so many questions left unanswered.
So many stories will be left untold.
Perhaps we may live an answer or illuminate a story.
Perhaps we may not.
So we turn to the security of constancy as dependable as the sea,
nature full of beauty and peace,
music that can teach and inspire.
Perhaps all we can do is seek comfort
in such things as flowers, and song, and you.

--Brandon Elliott
PictureBrandon Elliott and Dale Trumbore, taken at the conclusion of the recording sessions for "How to Go On" and immediately after Dale had presented Brandon with the gift of her piece, "Perhaps," based on Brandon's words.
Dale was asked the following questions about her newest choral piece, "Perhaps," part of Choral Arts Initiative's fifth anniversary concert, Seeking Light.

Why did you choose this text? Is there an important background or meaning behind it that relates to you and/or Choral Arts Initiative?

Brandon Elliott wrote this text, so there's a very real CAI connection here! It comes from a program note Brandon wrote for CAI's April 2016 concert, and the last line quotes Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem "To Kathleen." Brandon certainly didn't anticipate his program note being set to music, but when I read it at that concert, I knew it had potential to become the text for a new piece. And, of course, it had to be Choral Arts Initiative that would premiere it! 

I set Perhaps to music as a gift for CAI's 5th season, in gratitude and in celebration of CAI's just having finished recording the album of my music, How to Go On, that they released earlier this year.

How and why did you set this text the way you did, and how does it relate to the theme of the concert, Seeking Light?

I think CAI aims to "seek light" with every concert they sing. Perhaps explores the idea of seeking, too: "Perhaps all we can do is seek comfort in such things as flowers, and song, and you." 

This concert is also special in that it's part of CAI's 5th anniversary season, and this piece feels like a celebration of what CAI offers in every performance: "constancy as dependable as the sea, nature full of beauty and peace, music that can teach and inspire."

What is the compositional journey that happens during the piece? How does the music you wrote relate to the text and/or the story it tells?

I love that Brandon's text is sort of a mission statement for what CAI tries to achieve in its concerts, and for what all music tries to do. Musicians try to create beauty; we try to light up life's most gorgeous and challenging moments with music. Sometimes we succeed, and sometimes we don't, but that's not why we do it. We create music because we have to try; we sing or compose hoping that we will succeed in illuminating a story.

This piece is a little bit unique in that the two other pieces I've written for CAI--I am Music & How to Go On--have lots of divisi and challenging rhythms; I knew that CAI would rise to the challenge of performing them. The text for Perhaps seemed to call for simplicity, though. [It only has four parts, as opposed to How to Go On, which at one point has twenty-two parts happening simultaneously.]

4. What is your favorite part or the most important part of the piece?

On the last page, the chorus is repeating text they sang earlier in the piece: "Perhaps we may live an answer or illuminate a story. / Perhaps we may not." When they get to "Perhaps we may not" for the second time, the chords transform over the course of two measures from hopelessness to making peace with the idea of possible failure. And then the music continues, and moving on to what brings us comfort. Perhaps all we can do is seek comfort in such things as flowers, and song, and you.

5. What do you want the audience to experience or feel while listening to this piece?

My goals for what I want the audience to experience hearing this piece are like what the text itself describes: maybe audience members will experience the feelings of beauty and peace described in Perhaps, or maybe they won't like the piece at all. Ultimately, of course, their reaction is beyond my control. But I know that I feel a connection to CAI just reading the text; I can't wait to hear it sung in rehearsal and performance. I hope that my love for this ensemble and for what they accomplish with every concert comes through in this piece.

--

DALE TRUMBORE BIO

Hailed by the New York Times for her “soaring melodies and beguiling harmonies,” Dale Trumbore has been commissioned and performed by organizations including ACDA, ACME, Boston New Music Initiative, Inscape Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Children's Chorus, The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, Northwest Symphony Orchestra, Pasadena Symphony, The Singers – Minnesota Choral Artists, and VocalEssence. She has served as Composer in Residence for Nova Vocal Ensemble and Artist in Residence at Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, Copland House, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, and Willapa Bay AiR.

Trumbore’s interest in the convergence of music and language leads her to collaborate frequently with contemporary writers, and her works for voice have been recorded by Choral Arts Initiative, Choral Arts Northwest, The Esoterics, New York Virtuoso Singers, Six Degree Singers, and soprano Gillian Hollis. Trumbore’s compositions are available from Boosey & Hawkes, G. Schirmer, and MusicSpoke. Trumbore holds a dual degree in Music Composition and English from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in Composition from the University of Southern California. Hear her music at daletrumbore.com.

Seeking Light, a concert and reception celebrating Choral Arts Initiative, the composers they collaborate with, and beautiful new choral music, will premiere this newest choral piece of Trumbore's along with four other new works written for CAI.
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<![CDATA[Composer Spotlight: Saunder Choi, "I Follow the Sparrow"]]>Tue, 13 Jun 2017 01:59:05 GMThttp://choralartsinitiative.org/blog/composer-spotlight-saunder-choi-i-follow-the-sparrowSaunder Choi chose to approach the subject of seeking light "through the lens of darkness and strife." Originally, when Artistic Director Brandon Elliott approached the composer, it was the two year anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda, which was the most intense and deadliest tropical cyclone to ever to hit the Philippines, and the composer wanted to write something inspired by the tragedy akin to the Katrina Ballads by Ted Hearne. However, the focus went from his homeland to his current home when things changed here. "The decision on immigration and the travel bans shook me to my core. I am an immigrant and the developments truly terrified me. I decided to use this opportunity to ponder on migration and what it means to move. I asked my partner Mike to craft a poem about seeking light in a foreign land, and I Follow the Sparrow was the result of that." Together, they chose the subject of the migration of birds to address the subject of immigration, a subject that hits close to home for this immigrant from the Philippines.

Leave it to sparrows to migrate at night;
their crisp silhouettes cross the moon.
If warm winds arrive before afternoon,
The stars heed the birds with their light.

In the shade of their wings run the refugees
Afraid of their lords and the turbulent seas
To the warmth and the light, unbounded they run
To beat the oppression of land without sun.

Imagine denying the migrating birds.
Picture a shield in the sky.
It stifles the light
For the lies that we write
Still the brilliance of nature flies by.

     - Michael Yarsky




Saunder Choi, Brandon Elliott, and the Choral Artists all agree that this poem is such a beautifully written and an inspiring text. But before any of this poignant text is set to music in the score, there are a full twenty-three measures of wordless soundscape, filled with both sustained "oo"s and many fragments and gestures that come out of the texture at different times in each of the eight voice parts. For Choi, this is part of his compositional process and is the exposition of his exploration on this subject that means so much to him. "As with most of my works, I usually start with a gesture in mind. This could be anything from a textural thing, or a harmonic thing, usually both, but it rarely is the melodic element. Usually, the gesture serves as a textural bed for the melody and text to float above on. In this case, I really like the idea of ghosting, where a gesture from a voice acts as a trigger for another." From a personal perspective, the gestures reflect the parts or traces an immigrant leaves behind and likewise brings to their new country. "For me, humans are all migrant mammals. Moving is constant for us, and typically, we leave traces of ourselves behind. Much like when immigrants settle in a new society, each movement affects the other (or triggers something in the other), and the mix and dialogue between cultures is a beautiful thing."

The melody that expresses the opening lines of the text is introduced by the sopranos in a line that gradually ascends, as the sparrows take flight, while the rest of the choir continues to paint the soundscape of gestural fragments with sustained open fifths in the altos and tenors. As the text continues, the ghosting idea begins to effect the melody in echoes between the voice parts, usually between the firsts and seconds. A strong climactic moment in the piece comes when the word "light" appears in reference to the stars that guide the birds, and the light seems to shine out from the choir in solid rays and bouncing refractions of new sparkling gestures of "light." Amidst this light, we start to hear the wings of the birds flapping on their path in pointed sixteenth note patterns of "la-la-la-la"s. The ladies gradually split into four parts with four echoing lines of the same patterns, all happening in different but parallel paths, while the men continue to express the text and provides both light and shade. "This is the imagery of flight for me. 
The lightly bounced texture is like birds aloft in the sky, with their wings spread out in flight. The men singing the text are the 'shade' below, the shade of their wings." This, for the composer, is the imagery of flight, of travel, and of constant motion.

One of the most important and meaningful parts of the piece for the composer follows the words, "Imagine denying the migrating birds," where he repeats the words "Picture a shield," with a literal stop in the music, using a beat or two of rest between each iteration. This effect paints a very dramatic and profound picture: "Picture a shield... a shield..... a shield ..... a shield in the sky." You can feel the attempt to break through the barrier as each phrase clashes with dissonance and a harsh stop in the sound, in the struggle to get to the other side, the struggle of the immigrant. "It stifles the light." However, we have a return to tonality and melody, "Still the brilliance of nature flies by." Hope is there, beauty is there, light is there. To quote Saunder Choi's notes for the piece: "Light, no matter how bright or dark the environment, is always an indicator of direction: East and West marked by sunrise and sunset, or the North Star in the darkness. In the poem, any attempts to banish these light sources still cannot stop the innate compulsion toward movement embedded within both nature and the human being. To say I Follow the Sparrow is to say the drive to migrate precedes us; in fact, it practically seems as if it were the story of everything."


Saunder Choi is an emerging Los Angeles-based Filipino composer who has written a wide variety of works, from contemporary classical instrumental, vocal and choral works to jazz charts and popular music arrangements. As a composer, his works been performed, programmed, recorded and read by the USC Thornton Symphony, Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, Philippine Madrigal Singers, the Crossing Choir, the LA Master Chorale, USC Chamber Singers, Peninsula Women’s Chorus, Kalistos Chamber Orchestra and the Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium Chorus. He has been commissioned by the L.A. Choral Lab, the Andrea Veneracion International Choral Festival, Salt Lake Choral Artists, SYC Ensemble Singers of Singapore, Choral Arts Initiative, University of the East Chorale, University of Visayas Chorale, etc. As an arranger and orchestrator, Saunder has written for Tony Award-winner Lea Salonga, the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra, Maestro Gerard Salonga, the Tim Janis American Christmas Carol Show at Carnegie Hall, Ballet Philippines, and the Hong Kong production of Pippin. In 2014, he was awarded the 1st prize in the American Prize for Choral Composition (student division). He was also one of the composers selected for the 1st Young Composers Initiative call for scores by the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. He was also one of the composition fellows at the 2016 Big Sky Choral Initiative.
 
Born in Manila, Philippines, he sang tenor and was one of the resident composers of the world-renowned Philippine Madrigal Singers and holds a Bachelor of Arts major in Communication Arts degree from the De La Salle University-Manila. He received his Bachelor of Music in Composition and minor in conducting from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He completed his Master of Music in Composition at the USC Thornton School of Music, where his primary composition teachers were Ted Hearne and Donald Crockett. His works are published with Santa Barbara Music Publishing and Earthsongs. Select works are also distributed by MusicSpoke.


Hear this newly commissioned work, I Follow the Sparrow by Saunder Choi, in its World Premiere on July 16 at St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, one of a total of five commissions written for and performed exclusively for Choral Arts Initiative's Fifth Anniversary celebration. Get your tickets now for our Seeking Light concert and reception.
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<![CDATA[Composer Spotlight: Luke Flynn, "White Moon"]]>Sat, 03 Jun 2017 18:14:29 GMThttp://choralartsinitiative.org/blog/composer-spotlight-luke-flynn-white-moonWhen our Artistic Director, Brandon Elliott, approached the five composers who received commissions for our upcoming concert, Seeking Lightto celebrate our fifth anniversary season, he gave them only one word that would be the overarching theme of the concert: Light. For Luke Flynn, that light came in the form of his baby girl, Serena, who was about to be born when Flynn first received the commission, and her birth and impact on the lives of Luke and his wife informed and inspired this simple yet profoundly beautiful choral lullaby. Picture

White moon comes in on a baby face.
The shafts across her bed are flimmering.

Out on the land White Moon shines,
Shines and glimmers against gnarled shadows,
All silver to slow twisted shadows
Falling across the long road that runs from the house.

Keep a little of your beauty
And some of your flimmering silver
For her by the window tonight
Where you come in, White Moon.

        - from "Baby Face"
​                    by Carl Sandburg

The birth of Luke Flynn's daughter happened just after he received the commission to write a new piece for Choral Arts Initiative's fifth anniversary. This new presence in the lives of Luke and his wife informed the kind of choral work he would write. When asked by Choral Artists during a visit to one of our rehearsals how and why he decided to write a piece that was relatively short and simple, he responded:

"I just wanted to write a little lullaby, and I didn't want it to become this big monster. When you get a commission, you kind of have three choices: you could do something big and grand, you could do something small and light, or you could do something kinda crazy. I just wanted to do something small and light. It's a piece for a baby. If it keeps going and going, it defeats the purpose."

The piece begins with a quiet piano introduction that fills the first page. Flynn is setting the scene, as he describes it: the baby is asleep and all is well. The introduction also presents the initial melodic and harmonic themes of the piece. The choir then comes in softly with homophonic melodic lines filled with the beauty and love that her Father obviously feels for his daughter, Serena, who was with him whenever he worked on the piece. "The whole time, virtually every time I composed and worked on this piece, she was by my side." The initial choral entrance begins on a unison pitch before it blossoms into its harmonies. This quiet moment of the choir's first entrance is the composer's favorite part of the piece. "Everything is so calm and gentle. It's like when we come together to make music - it's a beautiful Sunday afternoon - that's why we do this. We gather together to make something beautiful happen, to make art."

In the second section of the piece, the choir opens up to a strong forte as it expresses the text, "White Moon shines, shines and glimmers," and while much of the chorus holds onto chords, different voice parts will have flourishes of melodic and virtuosic content at different times overlaid above cascading motives in the piano accompaniment. ​"The way I wrote it was I had one moving line and, like Schoenberg, he very famously bounces his melody around, and that was my idea. I just wanted to take this melody that I had and toss it around, and then wrote the counterpoint underneath it." The effect is glorious. More often than not, throughout the piece, the tenors will have the most flourishes of melody and virtuosity. It is no coincidence that Luke is a tenor himself. "The reason the tenors almost always have the melody, even if it's sometimes hidden a little bit - it's the Dad thing, without making it too personal, because I always want it to be for other people." The tenor Choral Artists are enjoying the privilege and truly bring out the beauty of these lines that have been especially written as a reflection of the love Luke feels for his daughter as a new father.

As in real life, things aren't always peaceful and calm all the time. As expressed in the poetry, there are things that are dangerous, "gnarled shadows" that can threaten the peace. While living in central Los Angeles, the composer experienced these dangers first-hand. "During the time while I was writing this piece, I was out walking to the grocery store - thankfully I was alone - and I was attacked out in the street, totally random, from behind. The attack was so violent I ended up spending a couple days in the ER. The first thing I thought was, 'Thank God they weren't with me.'

"This is the paradigm of life in general - you can feel it in the text [and the music] with the 'gnarled shadows': there's a little bit of stress, a little anxiety, lots of danger, but at the end of the day, everything's OK, everything's fine. There's a constant feeling of fear in parenting, and when something happens, it re-emphasizes that feeling, but then you go home and see the baby sleeping, and everything is fine."

Artistic Director Brandon Elliott led the wonderful conversation between the composer and Choral Artists and shared his own thoughts about the piece, what he liked most about it, and the commission process. "I always say with every composer commission, don't write a piece for us, write a piece that will live after this performance, and I think this piece will absolutely take flight. "


Come hear this beautiful new choral lullaby in its world-premiere on July 16th at St. Mark Presbyterian Church, one of five pieces commissioned by Choral Arts Initiative to celebrate its Fifth Anniversary: Seeking Light.

Luke Flynn (born 1988, Dubuque, IA) is a Los Angeles based composer and conductor whose pieces are performed regularly around the world, and have won or placed as a finalist in a multitude of major international and national competitions. Flynn (IMDb) has also composed the scores for a variety of films, video games, and theatrical works, and currently works as a film music proofreader for many of the world's biggest major motion pictures, such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Disney's The Jungle Book, X-Men: Apocalypse, and many others, through JoAnn Kane Music Service.

Flynn holds a Master of Music Composition degree from Butler University, where he studied with Michael Schelle and was a double graduate assistant in music composition and music technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music Composition from Clarke University, where he studied composition with Amy Dunker, and is the recipient of the University’s most prestigious award honored to a single graduating senior, the Francis J. O’Connor Memorial Award, as well as many other awards in music and leadership. Flynn has also had the privilege of being the first ever American student to study music composition at 鹿児島国際大学 the International University of Kagoshima in Japan, where he studied with Tadashi Kubo.  
http://www.lukeflynncompositions.com/
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