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!

Posted by: Colin Britt | January 27, 2017

Amuse Singers at Cathedral of St. John the Divine

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Photo: Jaume Soler

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Photo: Jaume Soler

This past Sunday, Jan. 22 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, Amuse Singers gave a free encore performance of “Wholly Holy,” our program from October 2016. The concert followed the regular Sunday Evensong service at the Cathedral. It was a joy to revisit this beautiful program and to make music with this fabulous ensemble. The concert included works by Orbán, Byrd, Tavener, Victoria, Eben, Pärt, and the luminous Missa in A by Miklós Kocsár.

Stay tuned for more information about our next concert, “Northern Exposure,” which explores music from Scandinavia!
Posted by: Colin Britt | January 9, 2017

Calendar of Spring Events

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It’s been far too long since I’ve posted an update, and I will soon publish a look back at all of the performances from the fall semester. But for now, here is a list of the performances I have lined up for the spring!

  • Sunday, Jan. 22, 5 pm: Amuse Singers perform a reprise of “Wholly Holy” at Cathedral of St. John the Divine, NYC.
  • Saturday, Jan. 28, 4 pm: North River Sing presents “A More Perfect Union: Politics, Plays, and Parties.” Mary Bethune Center, Jersey City.
  • Saturday, Jan. 28, 7:30 pm: West Village Chorale sings alongside Sky-Pony and Nimbus Dance Works for a concert benefiting the ACLU. The Sheen Center, NYC.
  • Sunday, Jan. 29, 4 pm: North River Sing presents “A More Perfect Union: Politics, Plays, and Parties.” Reception to follow. St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, Jersey City.
  • Saturday, Feb. 4, 7:30 pm: Colin Britt conducts the premiere of Karen Siegel’s opera, “The Hat.” Dixon Place the Lounge, NYC.
  • Sunday, Feb. 12, 4 pm: North River Sing presents “A More Perfect Union: Politics, Plays, and Parties.” Peace Care St. Ann’s Residence, Jersey City.
  • Sunday, Feb. 26, 3 pm: Amuse Singers present “Northern Exposure.” Church of the Heavenly Rest, UES, NYC.
  • Monday, Feb. 27, 7:30 pm: Amuse Singers present “Northern Exposure.”  Rutgers Presbyterian, UWS, NYC.
  • Sunday, March 5, 5 pm: West Village Chorale presents “Seeing Double.” Judson Memorial Church, NYC.
  • Sunday, March 12, 3 pm: North River Sing presents “A More Perfect Union: Politics, Plays, and Parties.” Perc Shelter, Union City NJ.
  • Wednesday, April 26, 6:30 pm: “Viva Vino,” West Village Chorale‘s spring wine tasting fundraiser. Judson Memorial Church, NYC.
  • Sunday, May 7, 3 pm: Members of the West Village Chorale join the Calvary Chancel Choir and San Francisco Orchestra for the premiere of the orchestrated version of Michael Conley’s Appalachian Requiem. Calvary Presbyterian Church, San Francisco.
  • Saturday, May 20, time TBD: Premiere of commissioned work for Maine All-State centennial performance. Collins Center for the Arts, University of Maine at Orono.
  • Sunday, May 21, 5 pm: West Village Chorale presents “American Voices.” Judson Memorial Church, NYC.
  • Thursday, June 1, 8 pm: The New Amsterdam Singers present “Life is But a Dream,” featuring my piece “World, I cannot hold thee close enough” and other contemporary American works inspired by poetry and folk song. St. Ignatius of Antioch, UWS, NYC.
  • Tuesday, June 13, 7:30 pm: Amuse Singers present “Influences.” Rutgers Presbyterian, UWS, NYC.
  • Wednesday, June 14, 7:30 pm: Amuse Singers present “Influences.” Church of the Heavenly Rest, UES, NYC.
  • Tuesday, June 20, 7:30 pm: Yale Choral Artists perform the premiere of Martin Bresnick’s “Walt Whitman Passion.” Sprague Recital Hall, New Haven CT.
Posted by: Colin Britt | October 6, 2016

Fall concert season kicks off!

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The West Village Chorale and Sky-Pony

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Grace Goodman, photo

October is here, and with it comes the first of many performances this year. My first performance of the season was with the West Village Chorale, who were invited to perform as part of the Park Avenue Armory Gala, an annual fundraiser for the Armory’s artistic and educational programming, and one at which Michael Bloomberg happened to be the guest of honor. We sang “backup” for two numbers, one by the fabulous indie-rock band Sky-Pony (lead by lead singer Lauren Worsham) and one by the legend herself, Ms. Patti LuPone. You can see some more pictures here, including one of a few of us singing the end of “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” with Ms. LuPone. It was a feast for the eyes and ears, for sure!

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Maya Ben-Meir

Next, on Sunday, October 9 at 2 pm, mezzo-soprano Maya Ben-Meir and I will be offering a free recital of American art song at Grace Church Van Vorst in Jersey City. The recital includes songs by Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Gian Carlo Menotti, and me, as well as some more “popular” favorites. A free will offering will benefit Cathedral Arts Live, the performing series I co-founded at Grace.

And last but certainly not least, on Oct. 15 and 17 I will be conducting Amuse Singers for “Wholy Holy, the first concert of our 2016-2017 season. This beautiful program features sacred music by Dufay, Dunstable, Palestrina, Byrd, Morales, and Victoria alongside contemporary works by Pärt, Tavener, Orbán, Eben, McDowell, and the Missa in A of Miklós Kocsár. I am so excited to be conducting this fabulous ensemble – the music is absolutely radiant, and the singers bring such passion and dedication to their craft. You don’t want to miss it! (Check out a sneak peek of the Victoria Duo seraphim below)

 

 

Posted by: Colin Britt | July 22, 2016

New releases from Edition Peters! …plus some other stuff

13781887_10100854972879519_7484981254087208253_nToday I received my complimentary copies of two newly published pieces, “I long to see” for SATB chorus, piano, and cello, and “Whenever beauty looks,” for SATB chorus a cappella. I’m deeply honored that Peters has decided to include these works in their catalogue, and humbled by the beautiful editions they published. Here is a recording of “Whenever beauty looks,” recorded before my wedding by my friends Tessie Prakas, Arianne Abela, Noah Horn, and Tian Hui Ng:

 

As it’s the summer, when many of us are programming for our ensembles, I’m also going to use this post to shamelessly plug a few more of my published (and unpublished) choral works. I’m not great at self-promotion, though I’m trying (Tori does a much better job at promoting my work). So please forgive the infomercial that follows.

Since the holiday season is approaching, I will re-share two of my holiday compositions: First is “There is no rose,” which I wrote in 2007 for the New Haven Chorale, under the direction of Edward Bolkovac. It’s published with the Evoking Sound Series at GIA Publications. Here is a lovely recording from 2014 by the Rutgers Kirkpatrick Choir:

Also published with GIA is “Come, thou Redeemer of the earth,” a relatively simple, chorale-like setting of a lesser-known Advent hymn.

If you’re looking for secular pieces, I have four a cappella settings of Edna St. Vincent Millay poems, published by both Alliance and GIA. Originally conceived as a trilogy, “Afternoon on a Hill,” “The Dream,” and “World, I cannot hold thee close enough” are each available for purchase. I’m honored that “Afternoon on a Hill,” my first choral composition, has enjoyed quite a few wonderful performances, including this first-rate recording by the Connecticut-based choir VOCE, conducted by Mark Singleton:

Also published by Alliance is “As there are flowers,” which was featured on Seraphic Fire’s incredible CD, Reincarnations, alongside works by Dominick DiOrio, Jake Runestad, Frank Ticheli, Dan Forrest, and Samuel Barber. That gorgeous recording, conducted by Patrick Dupré Quigley, can be heard here:

Finally, you can visit the Choral Music page on my website to see some other new works from the past year, including a trilogy of Emily Dickinson pieces for SATB choir and piano, my “Quem vidistis pastores” for TTBB choir and optional percussion, and a cappella choral setting of Rumi’s “The Agony and Ecstasy.”

If you made it to the end of this post – congratulations! That’s more self-promotion than I can usually stomach. If not… no harm, no foul.

Posted by: Colin Britt | June 30, 2016

Plans for 2016-2017!

At long last, I am very excited to announce my plans for next year. Following three years of enjoyable – and exhausting – studies at Rutgers, I will be taking on a wide variety of teaching and conducting opportunities. Here they are:

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  • In Fall 2016, I will be filling in as a sabbatical replacement for Edward Lundergan, the director of choral activities at SUNY New Paltz. I will conduct three ensembles there, including the Concert Choir (an auditioned large ensemble), the Chamber Singers, and the College-Community Chorale, a so-called “town-and-gown” group.
  • IMG_9535I will be assuming the position of Artistic Director and Conductor of the West Village Chorale, a 40-voice chorus based out of Judson Memorial Church at the south side of Washington Square Park in New York City. This wonderful ensemble has enjoyed 45 years of innovative and exciting programming, and I look forward to continuing the terrific work that my predecessors (including Michael Conley) have done.
  • Also in New York, I am excited to begin work as the Music Director for Amuse Singers, a selective chamber choir for treble voices. Founded in 2002 by Lee Ryder, this group specializes in a diverse range of repertoire and in unique programming.
  • Across the river in Jersey City, I’m also very excited to serve as the Music Director for North River Sing, a community chorus dedicated to singing songs from the American Songbook. I’m really looking forward to “going back to my roots,” as there is such a wealth of great music from Broadway and these icons of songwriting that doesn’t usually make it into traditional concert programs.
  • And of course, I look forward to continuing my work with the music ministry at Grace Church Van Vorst in Jersey City, which has become both my spiritual and literal home over the last three years. This church is truly an extraordinary place, where everyone – and I mean everyone – is welcome to visit, worship, sing, play, and find rest.

I can’t wait to get started with each of these wonderful ensembles and organizations. I look forward to sharing more news about concerts and events as the fall approaches. Happy summer, everyone!!

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Posted by: Colin Britt | June 5, 2016

James MacMillan’s “Cantos Sagrados” with C4

This coming Thursday and Saturday, I will have the incredible honor of conducting C4‘s performance of “Cantos Sagrados,” a powerful and disturbing work by James MacMillan.

As I’ve studied, rehearsed, and prepared this work, I can think of few other pieces that have resonated so emotionally with me. MacMillan’s gift for combining new and old texts, something modeled so brilliantly in the War Requiem, holds up a revealing and damning lens to the injustice in this world, and although the subject for the piece is the Argentinean Dirty War from 40 years ago, somehow the message seems urgently modern and relevant (and perhaps a caution against the growing sense of “us versus them” that pervades the current political landscape).

The other works on this concert, conducted brilliantly by my colleagues, include pieces by Karen Siegel, Perry Townsend, Hayes Biggs, Tarik O’Regan, Jamie Klenetsky Fay, Mario Gullo, and Arvo Pärt. James Kennerley is the magnificent organist (whom I understand last played the piece with the composer conducting – no pressure!). I hope you will be able to attend.

Posted by: Colin Britt | May 16, 2016

Journey’s End – 3 years at Rutgers

With Patrick Gardner

With Patrick Gardner

As hard as it is for me to believe – I feel like I just wrote my first post about coming to school here – my time at Rutgers has come to an end. The last three years have been an incredible learning experience, and I have found a new family of friends, mentors, and colleagues that I will forever hold dear. To conclude my time by singing at the 250th Rutgers Commencement in the presence of President Obama is an experience I will never forget. I have been gifted with the opportunity to study with and work alongside Patrick Gardner for these three years, and I shall remain forever grateful for his dedication to his students, his commitment to excellence, and the love of reading and lifelong studying he instills in each of us. The seriousness with which he approaches his craft is inspiring, and the opportunities I was given to conduct his choirs were invaluable and formative.

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A single blog post cannot encapsulate all of the memories contained in these three years, but some of my favorite experiences came through working with the extraordinary undergraduate students at Rutgers in the Kirkpatrick Choir, the University Choir, the Glee Club, and in my conducting and methods classes. I have been tremendously fortunate to work with some incredible musicians in my career, but the freshness and energy that the students at Rutgers brought to every facet of their studies and performances were tremendous sources of pride and joy for the department. I have been and continue to be moved and inspired by their generosity, humility, humor, and talent, and am grateful to have taught, accompanied, conducted, and sung alongside these gifted individuals.

After the Mason Gross Commencement

After the Mason Gross Commencement

With Hingrid Kujawinski, John Wilson, and Patrick Gardner

With Hingrid Kujawinski, John Wilson, and Patrick Gardner

It will be strange not making the trip to New Brunswick 5-7 times a week, and leaving the home I have found in Mortensen Hall is definitely one of the hardest departures I can remember. I am grateful to be staying in the area for the next year, and look forward to maintaining the professional and personal relationships I have built during my time here. Two of the kindest, most generous, and hilarious friends I have gained are my fellow graduate students, John Wilson and Hingrid Kujawinski, with whom I was honored to receive my degree this week. They have been unending sources of joy, laughter, and compassion, and they are both incredibly gifted and intelligent teachers and conductors. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for both of these dear friends.

I’m someone who does not believe in goodbyes, especially in the small world we share in the arts. I am grateful that technology has made this world even smaller, and I look forward to see what the next adventure holds for all of us.

Paying tribute to Mark A. Boyle, whose regalia I wore for the ceremony

Paying tribute to Mark A. Boyle, whose regalia I wore for the ceremony

 

C4, the Choral Composer/Conductor Collective, is gearing up to present two exciting concerts this week! On Thursday, March 10 at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields and on Saturday, March 12 at Baruch Performing Arts Center, C4 will present “Unusual: Music of the Strange, the Absurd, and the Surreal.”

I am thrilled to be conducting Philip Hersant’s lyrical and mysterious Allégories, which sets three poems by Rimbaud. This work is expansive and yet intimate, joyous and yet melancholy, and encapsulates three stages of life – childhood, youth, and departure. Check out the video above for a sneak preview.

I’m also very excited for the premiere of my piece, The Agony and Ecstasy, based on a poem by Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī. It’s my first time writing for this terrific ensemble, and under the brilliant conducting of Melissa Wozniak, the piece is sounding fabulous.

Also on the program are Martha Sullivan’s Tyger, Tyger, Gordon Williamson’s Tape Recorder (get ready for some overtone singing), the premieres of Karl Saint Lucy’s Or Delirium and Brian Mountford’s zany The Devil’s Dictionary, Daniel Andor’s Pitter, patter… and then, and Chris Opperman’s theatrical Tales from the Bizarro World. Don’t miss this exciting – and unusual – program!

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