You know him as one of the world’s preeminent choral composers and conductors, as well as a former member of the King’s Singers, but like so many of us, even Bob Chilcott was forced to put down his baton this year and find other ways to make music.
Chilcott focused his musical attention on teaching piano and theory to his eleven-year-old daughter, Becky, and her friend, and ended up also writing a set of three short jazz-style pieces for the piano to help show his students and other early intermediate learners explore the technical building blocks of music and develop their musical instincts in a way that would also be fun.
The results, A Little Jazz Piano, is a short piano suite featuring Chilcott’s celebrated jazz style in three movements: “Bobbing along,” “Becky’s Song” and “Walking with Ollie.”
“Now Winter Nights” by British composer and baritone Roderick Williams uses an evocative poem by Thomas Campion as its text, helping him to pinpoint the excitement of Christmas he felt as a child and still holds onto.
Guest post by Curran Mahowald, a choral singer who participated in Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 6 in May 2020
In the spring of 2020, Eric Whitacre assembled his sixth global virtual choir to premiere his new piece, “Sing Gently.” Following a series of virtual rehearsals led by Whitacre himself, 17,572 singers from 129 countries submitted videos of themselves singing their individual lines.
From there, a team of film editors and audio engineers from 59 Productions and Floating Earth assembled the individual submissions into one final virtual performance:
Here is what it was like to contribute my voice to that video.
One of the most thrilling parts of working with music is discovering new works and budding composers who are changing not only the way we listen to music and perceive sound, but also how we conceive of the broader world around us and our place in it both today and into the future.
Edition Peters has consistently championed contemporary music throughout its storied history, and with its ever-expanding catalog, Peters continues to be one of the staunchest supporters of the artists who shape the future of our musical landscape. Here Kathryn Knight, President of C.F. Peters New York, illuminates the Peters commitment to new music:
Peters has been working with contemporary composers since its inception in Leipzig over two centuries ago, publishing new music by young and emerging composers such as Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Grieg… Our commitment to bold new sounds has remained steadfast since that time, signing 20th-century iconoclasts such as John Cage and George Crumb. We know that some of today’s mavericks will be the composers of tomorrow’s classics.
– Kathryn Knight, President, C.F. Peters NY
A Short History of Edition Peters
Edition Peters was founded in 1800 in Leipzig, Germany, and quickly established itself as one of the 19th century’s leading German music publishing houses, building relationships with the most outstanding composers of the era. In the 20th century, Max and Walter Hinrichsen — surviving members of the German Jewish family that owned Edition Peters — fled the Nazi takeover of both their homeland and their family business and established new publishing houses in London and New York, respectively, that would carry on the Peters tradition.
As Sheet Music Plus stands in solidarity with those around the world advocating for change, we’d like to ask you to join us today in listening to Black voices. Here we recognize organizations that support and promote Black musicians and music education:
National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM): www.nanm.org
National Association for the Study and Performance of African American Music (NASPAAM): www.naspaam.org
We also share, in addition to the legacies left by brilliant but underappreciated Black classical composers like Scott Joplin, William Grant Still, Florence Price, William Dawson, and Nathaniel Dett, a directory of living Black composers maintained by Music by Black Composers (MBC):
The postlude following a service makes creation resound with praise and allows the congregation to leave the church proclaiming God’s greatness. As the signal for the congregation to disperse, it should be a stirring exclamation point to the service that connects the worship experience to the secular world to which the crowd of people is about to return.
Guest post by composer Pepper Choplinintroducing his new cantata, Once upon a Morning: From Resurrection to Pentecost. Choplin is known as one of the most creative writers in church music today. With a diverse musical background, Choplin incorporates varied styles such as folk, Gospel, classical, and jazz. His published works include over 300 anthems for church and school choir with 20 church cantatas and two books of piano arrangements, and over 120 groups have commissioned him to write original works for them. Since 1991, his choral music has sold several million copies. Choplin has conducted eight New York concerts of his music at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center with 250 voices and full orchestra. In his hometown of Raleigh, he has conducted eight mass performances of his cantatas at Meymandi Auditorium (home to the NC Symphony) with over two hundred voices and orchestra. In 2019, he conducted Handel’s Messiah (Christmas portion) with the 150-voice Cary Community Choir with orchestra. He also visits many schools, churches and conferences to conduct and to entertain.
I always wanted to write this cantata. Then a church in Pennsylvania commissioned me to write a spring cantata outside of the typical Easter work. For a year, I surveyed directors and singers about different potential subjects. This idea got them most excited.
I loved writing this cantata. These wonderful stories don’t receive much attention in church music. Yet, they contain so much drama and passion.
Guest post by composers Lee & Susan Dengler introducing their new Holy Week cantata, When Darkness Comes. Lee and Susan are the authors of over 400 choral anthems, cantatas and vocal and piano solo collections that are used worldwide. They have served as music leaders in churches, and have taught music on the elementary, high school and college levels. Both are professional singers and have performed in recitals, operas, oratorios and musicals. They reside in Goshen, Indiana.
Lee Dengler & Susan Naus Dengler
Easter was in mid-April that year. We who work in church music are relieved when Easter comes that late in the season, allowing adequate time to prepare for the music of Lent and Easter.
However, there was a lot going on in our house back then. We were awaiting the birth of our second child. The due date was April 1. Because of church responsibilities, we hoped that this baby would arrive on time. Rebecca Joy only made us wait two extra days before she appeared on the scene. Even though Palm Sunday was only two days later, we could fulfill our Holy Week responsibilities without too much stress.
Over the summer we found some time to connect over Skype with composer, oboist, installation artist and professor Sky Macklay, who was in the middle of what sounded like a truly magnificent residency at Civitella Ranieri in Umbertide, Italy. Macklay’s work, especially her chamber music and intermedia pieces, has been receiving more and more attention recently, especially in light of her 2017 Grammy nomination for “Many Many Cadences,” a chamber piece written for Spektral Quartet and appearing on their 2016 album, Serious Business.
The measured but sincerely eager thoughtfulness that Macklay employs in conversation about her art is also a key component of her work, which simultaneously revels in playfulness and freedom. The themes and concepts covered by her oeuvre, whether sociopolitical or linguistic or purely sonic, are almost as expansive as the tools she employs to explore them and convey her perspective on them. Her curiosity seems to be matched only by her omnivorous gravitational pull on the world around her: everything is on the table to explore via every means she can get her hands on. And the results are surprising, head-turning, eye-opening — and continuously exciting.
If a composer just so happens to also be a photographer, an essayist, and an activist both within the musical arena and outside of it, it seems fitting that she would describe her own work as “pan-genre and diverse – sometimes within the same piece!” Alex Shapiro’s extensive catalog encompasses film scores, chamber music and choral works, but it is in concert band music that Alex has been leaving her strongest mark as a composer.
Alex’s first foray into the concert band world came in 2007, when Major Tod A. Addison, Commander and conductor of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Band, contacted her via MySpace to commission a piece. At the time Alex had never composed for, participated in or even attended a performance of a wind band in her life, but was encouraged by Major Addison’s openness to her ideas and decided to jump right in.
The final piece, titled “Homecoming,” folds Alex’s sophisticated take on symphonic and jazz-pop music into traditional wind band sounds, while also taking a nuanced, multi-dimensional approach to the concept of a “military theme.” The result isn’t a collection of recognizable layers of elements, but rather something entirely new.