Seraphic Fire‘s fantastic new CD, Reincarnations, is a retrospective of over 100 years of American choral music. Led by music director Patrick Quigley, the album includes Barber’s famous “Reincarnations” and works by 10 living American composers, including Morten Lauridsen, Frank Ticheli, Jake Runestad, Dominick DiOrio, Paul Crabtree, and me! These outstanding artists have released the premiere professional recording of my piece “As there are Flowers,” which is also due to be released in Simon Carrington‘s series through Alliance Music Publications. You can hear a clip of their stunning rendition here:
This Thursday (5/29) and Saturday (5/31) night, I will make my debut with C4: The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective, singing and conducting on a varied and vibrant program of music exploring an exciting blend of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Islamic, and Pagan traditions. I’m thrilled to be joining this energetic ensemble, whose mission is to present challenging and innovative music from the last 25 years. As a living composer, I am undeniably indebted to artists who support new music, and thus performing with this ensemble is both a professional and personal opportunity.
C4 is made up of a number of very talented singers, most of whom who are also composers and/or conductors. Many of the pieces on this program were written by current or past C4 members, including Hayes Biggs’ beautiful “Wedding Motet,” Liz Hanna’s lushly lyrical “Anamnesis,” Perry Townsend’s intricate “Two Devotions and a Heresy,” and Fahad Siadat‘s powerful and appropriately mysterious “O magnum mysterium.” I’m delighted to not only be singing these works but also to be conducting two of them, including Fahad’s piece and Abbie Betinis‘ exhilarating and rhapsodic “Bar xizam,” a profoundly moving setting of one of the ghazals of Hâfez.
Thursday’s concert is at 8 pm at Engelman Recital Hall, and Saturday’s concert is at 8 pm at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door; additionally, a limited number of $4 rush tickets are available for the first patrons who arrive a half hour before each concert. Don’t miss this powerful and exciting program!
It has certainly been a busy semester! I sang with the Rutgers University Glee Club and Kirkpatrick Choir on an epic performance of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex in March of this year, and then had the tremendous pleasure of conducting the Kirkpatrick Choir in a beautiful performance of J.S. Bach’s Mass in G Minor with a fabulous orchestra. (Recordings to come soon) Finally, I closed out the year conducting the Rutgers University Choir in their fantastic concert on May 5 (see the picture above).
I’m also thrilled that my latest piece to be printed with GIA Publications was released this spring; The Dream, one of my three original Edna St. Vincent Millay settings, is scored for SATB choir a cappella. You can hear a recording here.
Finally, I have recently joined C4, the New York City-based Choral Composer-Conductor Collective, and will be singing and conducting in their upcoming concerts on May 29 and 31! In particular, I’m honored to be premiering Fahad Siadat‘s beautiful new composition, “O Magnum Mysterium,” and conducting Abbie Betinis‘ incredible “Bar xizam.” Tickets for this award-winning ensemble’s May concerts can be found here.
There’s a lot more to share, but I wanted to post this update since I’ve been more than a bit neglectful this spring – stay tuned for more!
Happy new year! November and December seemed like a blur, thanks in a large part to several amazing opportunities I had to perform in New York City. Pat Gardner, my amazing teacher at Rutgers, is also the director of Riverside Choral Society. He graciously invites his doctoral students to perform with this talented ensemble, and so within the span of a month I got to sing at not one but two of the fabulous venues at Lincoln Center: The David H. Koch Theater (for a performance of Handel’s L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, ed il Moderato with Mark Morris Dance Group) and Alice Tully Hall (for a performance of Messiah with Riverside).
In other exciting news, I’m especially thrilled and honored to have begun a new and exciting job as director of music for Grace Church Van Vorst, an Episcopal church in the heart of downtown Jersey City. This dynamic and progressive church ministers to an incredibly diverse and vibrant congregation, ranging from artists, lawyers, and students to homeless and underprivileged community members. I started my work on the second Sunday of a seven-week Advent season, so I literally hit the ground running and didn’t stop until Christmas! I am absolutely overjoyed to work with the talented and enthusiastic priest, worship committee, and musical staff at this church, and I am excited by the energy and creativity shared by everyone here.
I will soon post recordings from several concerts in the fall, including a fabulous performance by the Rutgers University Choir. In the meantime, have a happy and healthy new year – welcome to 2014!
Under the masterful leadership of Dr. Jeffrey Douma, the combined forces of the Yale Camerata, Yale Glee Club, Yale Philharmonia, Yale Symphony, and organist Thomas Murray presented the premiere of my arrangement of “Bright College Years,” the Yale alma mater, in a concert honoring the inauguration of Peter Salovey, Yale’s 23rd president. The concert took place on Friday, October 11, at Woolsey Hall, and was streamed live over the internet. The concert concluded with a performance of the alma mater, complete with waving handkerchiefs on the final refrain.
The whole concert was a wonderful tribute to President Salovey and featured spectacular performances from many of Yale’s finest performers, but you can watch and listen to the alma mater beginning at 1:43:30.
It was indeed a privilege to have been commissioned to write this arrangement for such a momentous occasion, and I am deeply grateful and humbled by the opportunity. To be entrusted with the task of providing a new orchestral arrangement of such a historically and emotionally important piece of music is an honor I will never forget.
This September marked the beginning of the newest chapter in my life, as I began doctoral studies at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. Leaving Connecticut, my home of ten years, was certainly a bittersweet moment, but it had become clear to me that if I was going to take this next step in my education, it needed to happen sooner rather than later. With incredible support from my wife Tori, my family, and my dear friends and colleagues, I applied to and was accepted into the program at Rutgers. Even at this early stage of my studies, I can’t help but believe that this was absolutely the right decision for me.
I am currently one of two doctoral students in the choral conducting program. Our teacher, Patrick Gardner, is an accomplished conductor, teacher, and clinician, who in addition to his duties as director of choral activities at Rutgers is also the conductor of the Riverside Choral Society in New York. His gift for teaching and his extensive knowledge of choral repertoire and history are all inspirational traits, and I hope that through my studies over the next three years I will be able to grow as a musician and learn as much as I can from him.
In addition to my studies, I am also delighted to be serving as both a Teaching Assistant (teaching undergraduate choral conducting) and as the interim director of the Rutgers University Choir, a 75-voice mixed choir comprised of students from the larger student body. It’s been a privilege to work with these students, whose wide-ranging experiences and backgrounds all enrich the program and create a rich and diverse ensemble. I’m conducting students who are majoring in chemistry, biology, psychology, music education, physics, engineering, art, theater, and everything in between. We’ve been in rehearsals for about a month now, and I can already sense the immense potential of this group. I look forward to sharing more about this talented choir as the year progresses, but I’ll go ahead and share a plug now – if you’re planning to be in New Jersey on Dec. 11, you should come to our fall program at the Nicholas Music Center at the Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Brunswick!
While saying goodbye (or at least, “see you later”) to the life I had grown to love in Connecticut was very difficult, beginning this new adventure in New Jersey has invigorated me and inspired me to continue my studies. I look forward to new challenges and building new professional relationships here, while continuing to keep my previous partnerships and collaborations alive. Thank you all so much for being a part of this journey with me.
2012-2013 certainly has been a busy year! In addition to going through both professional and personal milestones and transitions (including marrying my beautiful wife Tori), I’ve just experienced the most spectacular fifteen minutes of fame I could ever imagine! Because the latest chapter is just winding down, I thought I’d take a moment to write about some of these incredible experiences and opportunities.
To review: in September, my dear friend and colleague Arianne Abela and I got together about 55 of our talented musician friends to record a choral/orchestral cover of THE song of 2012, “Call Me Maybe.” We playfully called ourselves 3Penny Chorus and Orchestra. To our surprise (and delight), the video went viral and has been seen over 2.5 million times online. That led to an appearance on The Today Show, in which most of the original performers from the YouTube video were again featured, performing live from Rockefeller Plaza. It was incredibly exciting, but also deeply meaningful to Arianne and me, because we could share that moment with all of our friends performing with us and with our friends and family watching from home.
And that was the end of the ride – or so we thought. Early this spring, 3Penny was presented with the opportunity to audition for the hit NBC show America’s Got Talent. On one early morning in April, we again piled onto a charter bus and drove to New York, where we auditioned in front of the judges and a packed audience at the Hammerstein Ballroom. We had NO idea what to expect… but I don’t think any of us had the slightest idea just how well the performance would be received – the audience was up on its feet clapping along, and even Howard Stern gave us a standing ovation! Here’s the clip of that performance:
The next thing we knew, we were on a plane to Las Vegas, where we again appeared in front of the judges, who gave us the green light to move right to the quarterfinals at Radio City Music Hall!
Fast-forward to Thursday morning, August 8. We arrived at Radio City with 27 singers and 23 players, instruments in tow. We were brought in for some filming (there’s always filming going on), including interviews and so-called B-roll, which consisted mostly of our group arriving at Radio City, opening instrument cases, discussing logistics, and rehearsing. In the afternoon, we rehearsed with Graham, the music director, who helped us work on balance and made some minor adjustments to the arrangement, including adding a choral part to the introduction.
Saturday was our first time on that incredible stage – talk about goosebumps! They placed us roughly in our positions onstage so they could figure out our set. Sunday night was our big rehearsal – first, we were brought onstage for placement on risers, followed by an instrument-by-instrument sound check. The folks helping us were incredible – so professional and efficient, yet completely relaxed and patient, which must have taken a lot given our large performing forces. They spent a good 45 minutes working with us to get the best balance.
Following the sound check, we then rehearsed our number for another 45 minutes or so for camera blocking, which is when they determine which camera angle to cut to at specific moments in the song. For example, they wanted a shot of the chorus acting disdainful at a particular moment in the song; they also were very happy to do a close-up of my vibraslap solo. Throughout the whole rehearsal, we could see the live edits being projected on two giant screens on stage left and stage right. It was remarkable how consistent they were with each runthrough – the camera operators were ready for each shot well in advance, and I don’t know that I would be able to pick up on even subtle differences between takes had I watched them back to back.
The next time we played together was on Tuesday afternoon for our final dress, complete with wardrobe and makeup. We went onstage one more time, and pretty much ran the act from start to finish before leaving again. And then we were live! The show broadcast on NBC to over nine million viewers. Here is the clip from that performance, following the video introduction we filmed:
The concept of America’s Got Talent is that once an act makes it to the quarterfinals, the judges offer comments but then open it up to America to vote. Overnight, the votes were tallied, and we ended up not advancing to the semifinals. While we would have loved to continue performing in that incredible venue and on national television, we also recognize how talented the other acts were, and how tough our competition was! We’re very thrilled for the four acts that are moving on, and we’re also a little relieved to go back to our “normal” lives.
It’s pretty hard to believe this all really happened, and that it all started one Monday in September by inviting our friends to come sight-read an arrangement of a pop song and “paying” them with pizza and ice cream. This whole CRAZY endeavor was only possible because of their talents and generosity, and because of the incredible support we all received from our friends and family who were cheering us on. I can’t think of a more spectacular and fun way to end the summer (and to say “see you later” to some dear friends who are moving away from the Northeast) than this adventure we all shared. I owe special thanks to Arianne for being the best collaborator I could ask for, and to Tori for helping to keep me sane this summer. And thanks to each and every one of you for following along with us and supporting us – I am so incredibly humbled by the love and support you’ve given. I am so very lucky.
It’s been a busy couple of months! On February 2nd of this year, I had the privilege of accompanying the District II Honor Choir in Maine, conducted by my good friend Marc Kaplan. We opened the mixed choir performance with my fanfare, “A Dream and a Song” – here’s a video from their fabulous performance:
On February 23, the Hartford Chorale Chamber Singers presented “Our American Heritage,” a concert celebrating choral Americana. The performance included music by Barnett, Bernstein, Burleigh, Copland, Graham, Hogan, Smallwood, and Whalum. Douglas-Jayd Burn accompanied, and he and I performed a flashy 4-hand arrangement of the overture to “Candide”!
Then, on March 2, I conducted a choir of tremendously talented middle schoolers in the Northern Regionals music festival at Harbur Middle School. The program included Stephan Barnacle’s South African Trilogy and “O My Luve’s Like a Red, Red Rose,” composed by Marc Kaplan and me. It was a joy to make music with these very energetic and musical kids!
Finally, on Saturday, March 9, I attended the premiere of my latest choral work, “I Long to See,” performed by the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus, under the direction of Michael Kerschner. Stay tuned for a recording from their beautiful performance!!
Our long-awaited sequel to the “Call me Maybe” video has finally arrived! The 3Penny Chorus and Orchestra recorded our newest choral/orchestral cover, this time of the 1984 British pop anthem, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” On Dec. 10, 80 volunteer singers and players gathered together in New Haven CT to rehearse and record our classical treatment of Midge Ure and Bob Geldof’s classic anthem.
Like the original version, which was written to raise awareness and funds for the 1983 famine in Ethiopia, our cover also aims to raise money for charity. Visit our page with Action Against Hunger here:
Special thanks to everyone who helped make this video possible, especially Sachin Ramabhadran for his terrific work editing the video, and to our friends at Yale Divinity School, the Institute of Sacred Music, and the Yale School of Music! Happy holidays, everyone!