Tuesday, October 27, 2020

2020 summary: Does your jaw hurt? My jaw really hurts


I don't need to tell you: 2020 is A Lot™

I haven't sent out one of these newsletter e-mails since April because, to be perfectly frank, I've been overwhelmed and panicked for most of the intervening months. It feels like I'm riding a rollercoaster with a safety harness that isn't properly latched, and I'm watching other riders hanging on for dear life, and nobody is enjoying themselves one bit.

Can I offer you some distracting good news and videos? Maybe that will help? The weirdest thing about this year for me has been that my career has ascended against expectations for my industry and artform, which has led to some really conflicting emotions. I'm being given more opportunities to write music than ever, and performers have released plenty of recordings in lieu of live premieres. I've participated in a multitude of online lectures and workshops and discussions, both public and private, especially as the issue of systemic racism was more widely recognized this summer as the urgent issue it's so obviously been all along. I'm doing more teaching than ever before, all online of course. I joke that my real job title now is Professional Zoomer. It's funny; in my early twenties I flirted with the idea of becoming a television host, and now we're all forced to be presenters in our individual home TV studios.

But onto the distracting good news and videos. There is quite a lot!

I couldn't be happier about this! On Election Day beginning at 5PM Eastern, INVISION Opera is presenting the first-ever film version of the Gonzales Cantata. The setting? C-SPAN in Hell. It's perfect. I also arranged the instrumental parts for organ for this production. Confession: when the idea of arranging the cantata for organ was first raised, I wasn't 100% sold, but the second I started trying it out in Sibelius, I was OVER THE MOON. In fact, I can't believe I never thought of it before! Large swathes of the Gonzales Cantata are homages to Handel, so of course organ accompaniment sounds absolutely correct. And it's especially appropriate given that 2020 has felt far heavier and more imposing than 2007, a mood that an organ can carry off better than just about any other instrument. So after you have voted next Tuesday (for those of you voting in person), if you need something other than sanity-shredding news and commentary to watch on November 3, tune in!

(I'm personally convinced the election won't be decided that night, so you probably won't be doing yourself any favors by gluing yourself to the immediate results anyway.)

TOMORROW NIGHT: Tune in to the Mendelssohn Club's Dialogues with Dominick for a conversation between their artistic director Dominick DiOrio and composers Texu Kim and yours truly. I just wrote them a commission setting a poem from badass West Philly writer Feminista Jones, and it's really different to just about anything I've written before. The best way I can describe it is: a doo-wop jazz standard for choir, trumpet, bass, and drums that should get your toes tapping. Sometimes even when the world is falling apart, you gotta dance, you know? Tickets are $12 ($6 for students), but if that's a hardship for you, let me know, as I have a couple of comps to give away.
TONIGHT, Chor Leoni is releasing an interview of me by artistic director Erick Lichte, so tune in at 7PM Pacific Time (10PM Eastern). We span a wide range of topics and you'll get to hear several of my works ... and keep your eyes peeled for a possible collaboration with Chor Leoni in the future. If you miss the launch tonight, you should be able to watch the episode after the fact.


In my last newsletter, I announced a brand new commission from Oberlin Conservatory: an archaeology opera! We had our first libretto reading this past weekend, and I can't wait to get stuck into the music proper this winter. If you want to read more about the commission, check out the official Oberlin press release. And there is a lovely article about the project in Classical Post, which refers to me as a "star composer" (hoooo not sure I'm quite ready for that label and all it implies, but I'm blushing)!
Coming up in December: the premiere of my first (ooh, a glimmer of optimism!) commission for Voces8. YES I SAID VOCES8!!!! Many squees. I wrote a bittersweet winter carol for them, with lyrics by the librettist for Alice Tierney, Jacqueline Goldfinger. Catch the concert online on December 5.
And here are a bunch of recently released videos of my compositions for you to watch at your leisure:
Cantus performed a new TTBB arrangement of It's strange about stars for their COVID-19 sessions. They originally performed this last year at their Christmas concert on the theme of the Little Match Girl.
Lara St. John made an amazing video for my solo violin piece kommós, which was shown during GatherNYC's Mindful Minutes series—along with a solo work by one of my students, 14-year-old Adah Kaplan! I'm so proud!
I am so in love with what Amy Petrongelli and Eric Dluzniewski created for my solo voice + looper piece June #1. It's not just a gorgeous performance, but a gorgeous film, and has been really inspiring me to think about how to present music during COVID.
This new commission for Amuse Singers, Set Myself Free, also has lyrics by Jackie Goldfinger and received a virtual premiere. The piece commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
National Concerts paired me with lyricist Charles Anthony Silvestri for this new commission, Eight of Swords, inspired by the Pamela Coleman Smith tarot card illustration. The virtual premiere was given by the by SJSU Choraliers and Kirby Chamber Singers.
Violinist Cheng-Wei Hsieh also pulled out all the stops for his video of my solo violin and chiptunes piece, Theme and Variables: Scallops and Bollocks for Tea, check it out!
Resonance Ensemble edited together a video of their 2018 commission, LISTEN, with a new introduction by me. Content warning: sexual assault. I watched the performance again for the first time in a long while today after the ACB announcement and had a good cry, so if you need some catharsis right now, maybe this is the video for you.
The Thirteen released this premiere from last year of The Apotheosis of Apollo, a work about the wonder of the moon landing, with text by Clinton Kelly. The whole concert is absolutely worth a listen (the Thirteen are truly fabulous), and Apotheosis starts at 41:30.
Here's Gettysburg College's Audeamus singing Wild Embers in a virtual performance which took the place of their end-of-year concert. I was told by the directors that the singers were given the choice of which song to record, and I'm so honored they chose mine.

There have been even move videos than these, but I'm worried about this e-mail becoming too long already. I'm overwhelmed with anxiety just trying to remember everything that's happened in the last six months. So to sum up some other tidbits of news round these parts in a whole bunch of quick "I" statements:

            -   I joined the boards of Lyric Fest and the Young Women's Composer Camp
            -   I joined advisory boards for Cincinnati Song Initiative and Tonality
            -   Speaking of Cincinnati Song Initiative, I had a fun time recently doing a Composers and Cocktails interview, mojito in hand. Subscribe to their digital platform to watch, and for a lot of other awesome content.
            -   I will be on a panel for Opera Philadelphia on November 9 about reimagining the opera canon
            -   I was on a panel about intersectionality for American Composers Forum
            -   And another panel titled "Beyond Diversifying Repertoire" for Choral Arts New England
            -   In addition to my adjunct position at Rutgers, I joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania this semester, teaching a graduate composition seminar about opera. 

I think that's it for now. Please please please stay safe and sane in the coming weeks, choose democracy, and I'll see you all on the other side <3

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