Tuesday, March 09, 2021

This spring is popping with premieres and performances

Greetings from St. Luke's Episcopal on Germantown Road in Philadelphia, where tonight for the first time in OVER A YEAR I am in a room with a group of other people as they sing through some of my music. Last night I endured a very long Q-tip swabbed up both nostrils, as did everyone else here, to establish we don't have COVID, we are all masked and distanced, there are two large air purifiers running, we're taking frequent breaks, and the doors are wide open (thankfully spring weather has arrived). I don't think I can announce this project officially yet, but keep your eyes peeled for the announcement in a future newsletter; I am extremely excited. 

I am a little surprised to report that my schedule is still packed? I honestly thought that the pandemic would cause a career slowdown by now, but it feels like things are only heating up. I am working on several commissions, and I have several performances coming up, including two (virtual) premieres, and some videos from this past month to show you.


I teased this in my last newsletter: I set Abigail Adams's famous "Remember the Ladies" letter from 1776 for a new choral work commissioned by our favorite museum, the Museum of the American Revolution. Remember the Ladies is being recorded and virtually premiered on March 25 by one of my favorite choirs, PhilHarmonia, who commissioned American DREAMers back in 2018. This was such a joy to write (Matt claims he has it stuck in his head just from hearing me bang out the chord changes on the Clavinova), and I can't wait to get it out into the world! There's also a panel discussion at 6:30PM EST where I'll be talking more about the letter and the composition with historians from the museum, the conductor and executive director of PhilHarmonia, and the audio editor who put the recording together. (Huge shout-out to all the audio and video editors out there; truly the heroes of the music ensemble world these days.)

Remember the Ladies was written to compliment the museum's current exhibit, When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776-1807, where the actual letter in Abigail's hand is currently housed; if you're in town, you should check it out if you can. Attendance at the virtual premiere on March 25 is pay-what-you-can; please spread the word, and register online ahead of time.


On March 28, a work whose premiere was postponed by the pandemic is also being given a recorded premiere. Witch-Wife sets poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay and was commissioned by Choir Matrix, and I have found myself singing it randomly all year, heartbroken that I couldn't yet make it public. But soon! Tune into their website and YouTube channel on the 28th to hear it at last!


The same night, but after the Choir Matrix premiere, my art song for mezzo, Come My Tan-Faced Children, will be performed by Vanessa Isiguen and pianist Anthony Kalil in a livestream from the Seasons Performance Hall in Yakima, WA. Tune in on Facebook live.


On April 13, watch this virtual concert to see Amy Petrongelli of Khemia Ensemble perform my voice-and-looper piece, June. The videos she created for this performance are so gorgeous.


Looking for a musical snack this Saturday, March 13? Join Seattle Pro Musica for Choral Tapas, a bite-size virtual concert in which they'll share two choral works (one of them will be Wild Embers, with text by Nikita Gill), a cocktail recipe, and an appetizer demo by Seattle Cucina Cooking School. Free, open to all; donations gratefully accepted.


I've been doing a lot of talking in front of a camera lately, and some of that talking has been immortalized on platforms where the public can watch:

            -   I tossed some radical "Why charge *anything* for sheet music?" hand grenades during this American Composers Orchestra panel about the business of music publishing.

            -   Terrific feedback has been coming in for these two panels from Opera Philadelphia, Reimagine the Opera Canon, in which Veronica Chapman-Smith, Dr. Michael Mohammed, Emily Sung, Tanyaradzwa Tawengwa and I critique and examine the genre of opera through an antiracist and feminist lens. I'm also tickled that this means I have an official "cast" listing on Opera Philadelphia's new channel. 

            -   Dialogues with Dominick: The new Music Scene in Philadelphia: this one is not available yet, but will take place on March 31. It's a ticketed event, but I'm thrilled to be on this panel with rockstars Rollo Dilworth, Alysia Lee, and Andrea Clearfield; it'll be worth the $12 admission. Plus, you'll be supporting the Mendelssohn Chorus.


By request, I created a new mezzo arrangement of my song cycle Four Poems of Nikita Gill. Tell all your mezzo friends, and let me know if anyone records themselves performing it so I can feature it on my website. As always for my self-published works, the sheet music is free to download (see the above ACO panel if you're curious to learn the reasons behind my policy).


I'm proud and delighted to announce I was recently voted president of the board of Young Women Composers, the newly minted non-profit in charge of running the Young Women Composers Camp, where I was on faculty last summer. I know not everyone can afford to offer financial support to worthy arts causes during these times, but if you can, or you know someone who can, and you care deeply about the future of new music and are committed to creating a more diverse, multi-faceted contemporary music sector, please get in touch! We are seeking sponsors to finance scholarships for students for our 2021 virtual program. You can read more about our 2021 season, faculty, and guests here.
Many of our students qualify for financial aid each summer. This number is sure to be even greater this year, due to the many job losses and other complications resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Sponsorship could make an enormous difference in the life of an aspiring young composer - not only would your gift allow them to receive a high-quality education and recording of a new composition, but you would also enable them to become part of the YWCC network, a vibrant and supportive community that connects like-minded peers and mentors from the program. YWCC alums from previous years have continued to stay connected, to support one another’s achievements, and have even collaborated on new creative projects together. A scholarship would allow a future YWCC student to see their identity and experience reflected in the lives of other young composers from across the nation, giving them a sense of belonging and purpose that many other composition programs unfortunately cannot offer.
“I'm so grateful I got to attend this camp! It really changed how I think about composing, and how I believe in myself. I never realized how valuable it was even just to know there are other girls and folks out there who are my age, and who compose! Before YWCC, I think I grew up subconsciously believing that I could not become a "real" composer, because I'm not a white male. I can't express how priceless this opportunity was to me.” —2020 YWCC student
Tuition this year is $400, which provides each student with two weeks of composition seminars led by world-class composers, two 45-minute private lessons with our core faculty, and a world premiere of a new work by one of our three resident ensembles. If you're interested, I would be happy to speak with you further about the program and the difference your donation would make. Please reach out!

I've left this news for last, and it's bittersweet: I'm so sorry to report that our oldest cat Moonlight passed away a couple of weeks ago at the age of 17. She died at home of a sudden (but not unexpected) heart attack, which was a little traumatizing for Matt and me, but probably the easiest death for her. Although of course her passing is tragic, we're confident we gave her the best possible life (for those who listen to the Boghouse, yes, this is the cat who has never in her life figured out how to use the litterbox). She is survived by Inky and Nairobi, who are getting even more hugs and scritches than usual—although most of the hugs go to Nairobi, since Inky hates hugs. As one might expect, we buried Moonlight at the bottom of our deepest privy pit, so she'll be preserved for future archaeologists, and we plan to dedicate a seat at the Hannah Callowhill Stage to her memory.

I should skedaddle; the singers are back to working on my song in rehearsal. And I have a deadline tomorrow, and several more in the next few weeks. I'm busy, but I'm not complaining! (OK, I'm complaining a little. But I have some schedule time off from commissions in the fall to hopefully prevent creative burn-out!)

Till next month-ish,
Melissa Dunphy
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