Saturday, December 12, 2020

Happy holidays from me and Gritty


Hello! Since I last wrote at the end of October, my jaw tension pain has significantly improved. What a difference an election makes! The picture of me above was taken by photographer Ryan Collerd a couple of days after the election, when I dropped everything I was doing, broke the isolation I've been keeping since March, and ran into the Philadelphia sunshine to rally outside the Convention Center where votes were being counted. Each day I spent on the streets that week was at once exhilarating, exhausting, energizing, and enraging, filled with solidarity and joy, but also tinged with grief at what we're living through. And every day, we danced. For hours. Non-stop. We danced like we were casting spells with our bodies. We danced like the Chosen One in the Rite of Spring. For real, I haven't danced like that since I was 25.

Several journalists asked to talk to me, which resulted in a quote in Mother Jones (!!!), and an interview by AFP which was syndicated to news outlets around the world, including ... Yahoo Sports? Hahaha, that's a first! So just in case my body of artistic work doesn't make my political opinions 100% clear, I'm now on the record in the press making explicitly anti-Trump statements. Let's hope America doesn't devolve further into fascism anytime soon.

A bunch of TV outlets also broadcast footage of me and my Gritty sign dancing at the rally. Matt was so proud he hunted down screen grabs of my appearances and combined them into a graphic (yes, the BBC censored my sign):

I suspect we'll be suffering through election news through January 20 and even beyond, but I have a lot more hope right now, and a renewed resolve to keep pushing and contributing and working toward a better future however I can. 

Speaking of work, there is plenty of news on that front also.


Watch the Gonzales Cantata now!

The first-ever film version of the Gonzales Cantata went live during the election, and if you missed the premiere, never fear, you can still view it here. Watch for free, or pick up a paid Invision subscription to support the performers and company. You can also see a conversation between me and director Corinne Hayes in which we talk about the cantata's relevance to our current political climate. And if my admittedly biased recommendation isn't enough to inspire you to click, take the word of positive reviews from DC Metro Theater Arts ("They have turned an ordinary, if contentious, political event into a musical blend of satire and drama.") and DC Theatre Scene ("I was deeply moved at the end"). Or, you know, maybe check out my FIRST SIGNIFICANT WRITE-UP IN THE NEW YORK TIMES ("Dunphy gets laughs from the contrast between bureaucratic blather and Handelian arioso... By design, the comedy butts up uncomfortably against policies"). Yeah, I guess I kinda buried the lede there. It's been a big month.

Commission for Voces8: "Halcyon Days"

I wrote a song for Voces8!!! "Halcyon Days" was premiered in their Live from London series on December 5, and you can watch the entire concert here ($15 for a single ticket, or consider springing for the whole season). The two-hour show also includes the superb Oakwood University choir, the Aeolians—I saw them perform at ACDA a few years ago, and it was life-changing—and premieres of new commissions from five other composers, including my friend Jocelyn Hagen, and baritone Roderick Williams (whom I had the opportunity to meet on Zoom, and he's so lovely!).

In a review, Opera Today called my song "Rutter-esque" which has me very tickled, especially given the semi-famous photo I took with him at the aforementioned ACDA.

If you'd like a sneak peek of "Halcyon Days," here's a snippet:
Still pinching myself that this happened...
And the sheet music is already published by Edition Peters and out now! You can get it in digital format or octavo on Sheet Music Plus:

Come, My Tan-Faced Children presented by Vanessa Isiguen and Portland Opera

Earlier this week, soprano Vanessa Isiguen sang my Walt Whitman setting, with Nicholas Fox on piano, for Portland Opera's Live from the Hampton Opera Center series, and you can watch her stunning performance on YouTube here:
"Come, My Tan-Faced Children" starts at 24:40, but you should listen to the whole thing; Vanessa is a powerhouse!
And here's a round-up of other various videos that became available since my last newsletter:
Singing City invited me to participate in a panel on the topic of composing for choirs with conductor Jeffrey Brillhart and fellow composers Carol Barnett and Kile Smith.
Men's chorus Chor Leoni's artistic director Erick Lichte and I had a conversation about my work for their series, Chor Leoni Inside...
...and the supplemental deeper dive, Chor Leoni Further Inside.
Mansfield University's women's chorus recorded a beautiful (masked, socially distant) performance of my setting of Nikita Gill's poem, "Wild Embers," introducing it with the story of Joan of Arc. (Stay tuned also for the next intro, which references the Abigail Adams "Remember the ladies" letter. More about that in a future newsletter, shhh...
Carleton College choir performed "#UnitedWeDream" from American DREAMers, with introduction and photography by poet Claudia D. Hernandez. Earlier, the choir invited Claudia and I to participate in a Zoom workshop, which was such a delight! Claudia is one of the most inspiring, warm, wonderful people I've ever had the pleasure to work with.

On a more serious note: Zach Finkelstein, Dana Lynne Varga, and Hillary LaBonte recently published their article "Excluded, Penalized, Indebted, Harassed: A Study of Systemic Discrimination Against Women in Opera" on The Middleclass Artist, and it's an important read. Anyone who has spoken to me about this issue knows that it's been central to my outlook as a composer since I was an undergrad (it was a major reason that I reversed the genders of the roles in the Gonzales Cantata), and I'm honored to have my rant on the topic from a New Music Box cover profile quoted in the study. Systemic sexism in professional music fields is at last being analyzed and discussed openly and candidly, along with systemic racism, and I'm heartened to witness how pro-actively the next generation of artists is committed to addressing and changing this industry. I don't think these problems will be solved overnight, but if we have courage and resolve, I have confidence that things will get better. And coming from a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist like me, that's not a glib prediction!

One more thing: because our Airbnb is pretty much completely dead right now (and rightly so, please stay home if you can), I'm making up some of the difference by using the Boghouse Etsy shop to sell some surplus archaeological artifacts from our 250-year-old privy that we dug late last year. And bear with me here ... the most responsible things I can deaccession are animal teeth. Yes, 18th-century animal teeth, packaged beautifully in a gift box and ready for you to give to that oddball loved one who needs a really unique holiday gift. You can purchase our privy teeth here, and if you think I've lost my mind, joke's on you: so far I have almost made up for this month's Airbnb loss! I'm fascinated with these teeth myself, and I knew there'd be others like me out there! Here's a sassy-looking pig premolar, for instance:

Supplies are very finite, so if you're interested, get them before all the other weirdo teeth enthusiasts snap them up.

I hope you have a very boring holiday season, because honestly that's all I am longing for right now, dull, relaxing, blessed boredom. Doesn't that sound amazing? No more excitement until 2021. It's my wish for all of us. Be totally bored. May nothing cause your adrenaline to spike or your heart to race or your breath to catch for the rest of the month at least. Bliss.


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