Posted by: Colin Britt | November 30, 2019

Hartt and New Haven Chorale commission

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

As I announced over the summer, I am very excited and honored to be the commissioned composer for a shared anniversary celebration – the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Hartt School (my alma mater) and the 70th anniversary of the New Haven Chorale.  Dr. Edward Bolkovac, my former teacher and mentor, will conduct the premiere, which will be performed by the Hartt School Choruses and members of the Hartt Symphony Orchestra, the New Haven Chorale, and the Hartford Chorale.

The new piece, titled In the Service of the Beautiful, is for choir, string orchestra, harp, and wind instruments. The libretto is a compilation of texts and writings by Moshe Paranov, one of the founders and longest-serving faculty members of the Hartt School. The title comes from a motto the school adopted in the 20th century, translated from the Greek Eneka tou kalou, which serves as a melodic motif throughout the work.

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Woolsey Hall

The premieres will take place on May 1st, at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, and on May 3rd, at Woolsey Hall in New Haven. Full details about the performance can be found below:

As part of the ongoing celebration of its 100th Anniversary, The Hartt School of the University of Hartford is pleased to announce two exciting performances on Friday, May 1 at 7PM at the Cathedral of St. Joseph, and Sunday, May 3 at 4:30PM at Woolsey Hall at Yale University in New Haven! Both concerts will feature Berlioz’s jubilant Te Deum, In the Service of the Beautiful, a newly commissioned work by Hartt alum Colin Britt, and two works by Gabrieli and Gesualdo arranged for brass by Edward Cumming. In addition, the May 1 concert will also include Intrada 1631 by Stephen Montague, and the May 3 concert will feature the premiere of a new piece by Steven Gryc written for trombonist Haim Avitsur. The massive performing forces will include The Hartt School Choruses and Symphony Orchestra, as well as longtime community collaborators: The New Haven Chorale, Edward Bolkovac, Music Director; the Hartford Chorale, Richard Coffey, Music Director; and organist Ezequiel Menendez. Conductors for these two gala concerts will include Glen Adsit, Edward Bolkovac, Ziwei Ma, and Haksong Lee. Mark your calendars now for these two extraordinary performances!!

Posted by: Colin Britt | November 2, 2019

Fall season update

Well, the fall semester is off and running at full speed! It’s hard to believe the school year is already two months underway.

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This fall, in addition to continuing my duties as director of choirs at Rutgers Preparatory School in New Jersey and as artistic director and conductor of the West Village Chorale, I’ve also taken on the responsibility as a sabbatical replacement conductor for the Rutgers University Voorhees Choir, normally under the direction of the brilliant Dr. Brandon Williams. You may remember that the Voorhees Choir gave the premiere of my composition “Imagination” at Carnegie Hall last spring; now it’s my privilege to conduct this excellent ensemble this semester while Dr. Williams is on sabbatical!

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With the West Village Chorale, we are busy preparing for an exciting season, including our upcoming holiday concert, “Song and Carols from the North.” But barely after our rehearsals for the season had started, we were invited to perform with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra at the United Nations General Assembly as part of the UN Day celebrations. That’s right – the UN. About 26 of us were brought in to rehearse and perform three pieces by Dana Al Fardan, Qatar’s most prominent female composer (she wrote the Qatar Airways boarding music, for one). The amazing Eímear Noone conducted us alongside this fabulous orchestra and several amazing vocal soloists. What an amazing way to start the year!

I have some other exciting updates which I’ll share in the coming weeks, but for now, happy November!

Posted by: Colin Britt | July 18, 2019

Summer update!

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Well, as they say, it’s been a minute!

Greetings from Long Beach, where our dog and I are spending most of the summer with my wife as she performs for two months in Frozen at Disney. This “vacation” is giving me long overdue time to get caught up on sleep, emails, and some ongoing projects, some of which I’ll be detailing below!

Since my last update, a number of very exciting things have happened. The first was a pair of concerts given jointly by the West Village Chorale and Sky-Pony in March, one at Judson Memorial Church and one at Grace Church Van Vorst as part of their Cathedral Arts Live series. This concert, “Crossing Over,” was an incredibly memorable and compelling performance and I’m very proud of what we created together. You can find video of the complete Jersey City performance, masterfully edited by That Russian Guy, at this link:

And for a sample of the New York performance, check out “Action Movie” (video edited by Tyler Bertram):

Definitely one of the coolest and most exciting performances in recent memory!

Then, in April, I was honored to attend the premiere of my newest work for treble voices, “Imagination,” at CARNEGIE HALL. This piece was commissioned and premiered by the Rutgers University Voorhees Choir, under the superb direction of Dr. Brandon Williams. Ji Hea Hwang is the pianist and Yu Ouyang soars on the violin part.

The piece is a setting of a poem by Phillis Wheatley, the first African-American woman to be published, and it was featured in a concert of musical settings of female poets. This is an excerpt from the sound check:

I kept pinching myself to make sure I was really there, listening to my music in that sacred venue! Thank you to Brandon and the Voorhees Choir for an incredible premiere.

Finally, in June the West Village Chorale joined forces with C4: The Choral Composer-Conductor Collective for a performance of new choral works, including pieces by Bassi, Betinis, Monk, O’Regan, Runestad, Trumbore, and world premieres by Biggs, Sullivan, and yours truly. Karen Siegel conducted the premiere of my newest work for double choir, “Belief,” which tackles the subject of believing survivors of sexual violence and harassment, and incorporated quotes from the Kavanaugh and Thomas hearings, along with high-profile court cases. A fully produced video of the piece is in the works, but you can see the live-streamed video here:

Because of the highly sensitive nature of this piece, I’m including a link to the text and program notes on a separate page: http://www.c4ensemble.org/june-2019-cycle-3.html

There were plenty of other wonderful things that happened this spring, but I’m even more excited to share plans for next year! I’ve just finished the first draft of my piece for the 2020 ACDA High School Honor Choir, which will be premiered in March at the Eastern Regional conference in Rochester. I’m also going to be writing a piece for the 100th anniversary of the Hartt School (and the 70th anniversary of the New Haven Chorale).

Stay tuned for more updates later this month…

 

Posted by: Colin Britt | March 4, 2019

TWO amazing commissions (and a new published piece)

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At ACDA in Kansas City

I’m absolutely elated to share that my newest choral work, “Imagination,” will be premiered by the Rutgers University Voorhees Choir, conducted by Dr. Brandon Williams, at Carnegie Hall on April 23, 2019. The piece is for treble voices, piano, and violin. It’s a setting of On Imagination by Phillis Wheatley, the first published African-American woman to be published.

This will be part of a set called “In Her Words,” which includes settings of texts by female poets. Other featured composers include Jocelyn Hagen, David Brunner, Andrea Clearfield, and J. David Moore. I’m honored to be included in such amazing company!

Then, in March of 2020, I will be the commissioned composer for the ACDA Eastern Division High School Honor Choir! Dr. Edith Copley, from Northern Arizona University, will conduct the premiere of my setting of “Listening” by Amy Lowell. I’ll have more information to share about that soon, but needless to say I’m beyond humbled and excited!

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Lastly, please check out the newest addition to my published catalogue, newly released by Alliance Music Publications. This is the SSAA arrangement of “Afternoon on a Hill,” which I originally arranged for my friend and colleague Arianne Abela. I’m thrilled that this version is now available for purchase!

I just returned from a thrilling and revitalizing week at ACDA in Kansas City, and it was so good to reconnect with so many dear friends and colleagues, and to celebrate their successes! I can’t wait to see what the next year holds for all of us!

While searching for something completely unrelated, I stumbled across this GORGEOUS performance of “As there are flowers” by The National University of Singapore Choir, conducted by Prof. Nelson Kwei. Thank you for such a beautifully nuanced and emotional performance of this piece – I am deeply humbled and grateful!!

Posted by: Colin Britt | December 22, 2018

December news

It has certainly been an exciting season! I’ve had several concerts in the last few weeks, and I’ve also been very fortunate to have a couple premieres and new releases this month. Here are a few highlights:

  • On Wednesday, Nov. 14, I attended the premiere of two movements of a new trilogy of Sara Teasdale settings written for my friend Arianne Abela and the Amherst College Concert Choir as part of a collaborative venture between the music and visual arts programs. The ensemble was fantastic under her new leadership, tackling some really complex and exciting music, and I was thrilled with the premiere! I’ll be sharing that recording soon!
  • On Sunday, Dec. 2, I conducted my third annual Messiah Sing with the West Village Chorale and over 150 of our friends in New York.

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  • On Saturday, Dec. 8, I attended the premiere of my newest composition for tenor and bass voices, “Once, as I remember,” given by the Rutgers University Glee Club and my dear friend and mentor Patrick Gardner. The Rutgers Kirkpatrick Choir also gave a beautiful performance of my setting of “There is no rose.” I can’t wait to share the recordings from that performance – stay tuned!
  • Then, on Sunday, Dec. 9, I conducted my third annual holiday concert with the West Village Chorale, titled “Holidays Around the World.” This program featured music from Russia, England, Latvia, Nigeria, Haiti, Spain, Mexico, and the United States, and it was one of the most vibrant and polished performances I’ve had with this fabulous group. Here’s a video of one of our pieces from that program:

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  • Then, on Monday, Dec. 17, I conducted my fourth concert with the combined choirs at Rutgers Preparatory School. We sang music ranging from Rachmaninoff to Imogen Heap and from Paulus to the PENTATONIX. I am so grateful to work with such an outstanding group of students, and to be able to make music in such a supportive environment every day!
  • Finally, I’m thrilled to share the newly released debut recording of a piece I wrote for Tapestry. My composition, “I think awhile of love,” is the title track of the album, and Billy Janiszewski conducted an absolutely brilliant performance of the piece! I am beyond thrilled with how this recording came out, and I’m especially honored by how this piece has become something of a mantra for the ensemble. The piece (which I wrote in opposition to the divisive and intolerant rhetoric coming from the current political administration) sets a poem by Henry David Thoreau over an accompanying sequence of ostinati that uses something like 30 translations of the word “love.” The emotional apex of the work comes in the final two stanzas, pasted below:

Two sturdy oaks I mean, which side by side
⁠Withstand the winter’s storm,
⁠And, spite of wind and tide,
⁠Grow up the meadow’s pride,
⁠For both are strong.

Above they barely touch, but, undermined
⁠Down to their deepest source,
⁠Admiring you shall find
⁠Their roots are intertwined
⁠Insep’rably.

Please enjoy their brilliant recording – and check out the whole album, which is outstanding!

Lastly, please have a safe and wonderful holiday – see you in 2019!

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With Victoria Britt

Posted by: Colin Britt | November 3, 2018

Fall happenings

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My, what a year it’s been! I’m going to try to include as much information about everything that’s going on in as little space as possible!

  • I am well into my second full year (fifth semester) teaching at Rutgers Preparatory School in Somerset, New Jersey. It’s really starting to feel like “my” program, in that I have developed a culture and rehearsal rhythm with my students. They’re singing exceptionally well this year, and I can’t wait for our December concert!
  • I am incredibly honored to be one of 5 composers involved in a collaborative large-scale oratorio, titled “The Same Word,” which celebrates the commonalities between 4 of the largest religions in the world. I was able to travel to Hamburg in October to meet with some of the other composers and producers of this incredible project, and I can’t wait to share more details soon!

With Travis Leland and Victoria Britt

  • I am in my third year with the West Village Chorale, and we are gearing up for our main holiday concert on Dec. 9, which is titled “Holidays Around the World.” We’re performing music from France, Haiti, Ireland, Latvia, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, and the United States. Highlights include Whalum’s Betelehemu, Levine’s Lo V’chayil, Desamours’s Noel Ayisyen, and Rachmaninoff’s Slava from the All-Night Vigil, among many others! We also recently produced our third annual Oktoberfest fundraiser, which this year was Broadway themed.
  • Finally, I have some exciting premieres coming up! On Wednesday, November 14, my friend and colleague Dr. Arianne Abela will premiere one of my newest choral works, a setting of poems by Sara Teasdale, with the Amherst College Choir! Then, on Dec. 8-9, as part of the annual Rutgers Christmas in Carol and Song performances, my friend and former teacher Dr. Patrick Gardner will conduct the premiere of my “Once, as I remember.”

 

There’s a lot else to share, but I’ll save it for now – happy fall!!

I’m honored and delighted that this Saturday and Sunday, the Greenwich Choral Society, under the direction of Paul F. Mueller, will be premiering my newest choral work, “Light Upon Light.” It’s a piece that combines texts on the theme of light from each of the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The theme of light is at the center of the concert, which also includes the Hanukkah song “Light the Legend” and J.S. Bach’s “Magnificat.” When I was contacted by Maestro Mueller about the commission, I decided to take the theme of light and explore it from these various angles.

You can read a wonderful article about the piece and the concert at the Greenwich Time website.

Posted by: Colin Britt | July 3, 2017

Summer update

Well, once again I’ve let an entire concert season go by without writing any updates! To recap, here are a few highlights:

  • On April 27, I conducted my first concert with the choral ensembles at Rutgers Preparatory School. Each of the four groups sang 5 pieces, and we sang 2 combined pieces at the ending. It was a beautiful program, and I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be continuing for another year at this wonderful school!
  • On May 21, the West Village Chorale gave its final brilliant performance of the season, a concert celebrating choral Americana. We sang works by Barber, Bernstein, and Copland, gospel pieces by Hogan and Smallwood, as well as new works by Betinis, Lauridsen, Whitacre, and the premiere of a gorgeous piece by Thomas Peters. You can watch a video of “Total Praise” here:

  • On June 13, Amuse Singers also gave their dazzling final performance of the season, titled “Under the Influence.” This diverse and delightful program featured music by Western composers who drew on influences from around the globe. Abbie Betinis’s stunning From Behind the Caravan was the centerpiece, and other works by Sarah Hopkins, Gabriela Lena Frank, Jan Gilbert, Ivan Moody, Michael McGlynn, Carson Cooman, Zhou Long,  Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, and Marten Jansson were also featured.
  • Lastly, I conducted my final set of concerts with North River Sing in Jersey City. This program, “Around the World in 80 Minutes,” somewhat cheekily featured music with locations in the titles. We did this program in a couple venues, perhaps most unusually in the Oculus at the World Trade Center!

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With Dr. Robert Russell

I was also honored to have not one but two exciting premieres take place this spring. The first, a commission for the 100th anniversary of the Maine Music Educators’ Association, was premiered at the Maine All-State festival on May 20, brilliantly conducted by Dr. Robert Russell (who also conducted my very first all state chorus in 2001!). A picture from that premiere is to the right, and I look forward to sharing a recording of that piece in the near future.

The second premiere was a deeply personal work, commissioned by the New York-based chamber choir Tapestry. Their director, Billy Janiszewski, had contacted me following the contentious 2016 presidential election and asked me if I would write something that would speak to our common humanity and unity in the face of such uncertainty. I set Thoreau’s beautiful poem, “Friendship,” the first line of which is “I think awhile of love” (which became the piece’s title). Then, to underline that theme of common humanity, I drew on some 30 translations of the word “love” to underscore, support, and enhance the English text. Tapestry performed the piece three times, on May 31, June 3, and June 4, and I can’t wait to share the recording from their brilliant performance!

Then, there were also performances in which I sang – one was the premiere of the orchestral version of Michael Conley’s spectacular Appalachian Requiem in San Francisco, and the other was the premiere of Martin Bresnick’s oratorio Passions of Bloom in New Haven by the Yale Choral Artists. So yeah, no rest for the weary!

Stay tuned for exciting news about the fall!

Posted by: Colin Britt | March 6, 2017

Some winter updates

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The West Village Chorale presents “Seeing Double: Music for Double Choir”

A few exciting things have taken place since my last update! In chronological order, they are:

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Performing with Sky-Pony

  • On February 26 and 27, Amuse Singers performed “Northern Exposure,” a concert of works from Scandinavia and Finland, including compositions by Sandström, Kostiainen, Rautavaara, Nystedt, Gjeilo, Grimsdottir, Rehnqvist, Norholm, Kankainen and more. I look forward to sharing recordings from that concert – it was a fabulously sung program by these terrific singers.
  • On March 5, the West Village Chorale performed “Seeing Double: Music for Double Choir,” featuring the luminous and challenging Mass for Double Choir a cappella by Frank Martin, Mendelssohn’s “Warum toben die Heiden” and “Richte mich, Gott,” Lassus’s “O la, o che bon eccho,” and the second-ever performance of my “Dreamscape,” a setting of Edgar Allan Poe poems. Our fabulous accompanist Elena Belli and I also played four miniatures from Ravel’s charming Mother Goose Suite. It was a fantastic program, and one in which the singers worked extremely hard and sang absolutely beautifully.

And last but not least, in February I started a position as Interim Choir Director at Rutgers Preparatory School, where I conduct the Madrigals, the Women’s and Men’s Choirs, the Middle School Choir, and teach music theory. This new chapter is certainly a delightful challenge, but it’s been a joy working with this incredibly gifted and kind students, as well as some phenomenal colleagues.

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The choir room at Rutgers Preparatory School

Then this week, I’m off to Minneapolis for the ACDA convention. Yeah, I guess I’ve been a little busy!

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