Thursday, January 26, 2023

Composing Life

Melissa: If you know a composer, you’ve probably heard them complain about parts. Creating individual parts for orchestral performers is *no fun*. It’s a tedious and lengthy process, and no matter how much time you spend making them and checking them, you always, always find proofreading errors that throw all your formatting off and cause you to have to start from scratch.

But for the past three years at least, I’ve written exclusively choral music. Choral singers read directly from the score, and I never really thought about how lucky I was to not have to prepare parts every time I finished a commission. When you finish a choral score, you are done! You can let the feelings of relief and accomplishment wash over you as you immediately send the score off to the commissioner and collapse in a heap in front of a whole season of some terrible true crime show on Netflix (my usual means of decompression). Last month, when I finally finished the complete orchestral score for my new chamber opera, Alice Tierney, I nearly followed this same routine … until I remembered that my job was not done. Noooo! Parts!! My December was spent in a fever of part creation, checking (and rechecking) and tweaking well over 200 pages of parts for the chamber orchestra accompaniment. This is my excuse for not putting out a newsletter last month, in case you were wondering why I’m banging on about parts.

 (I could not have done all this and emerged sane without the help of my incredible assistant Adah, by the way! I think she probably knows Alice Tierney better than I do at this point, haha.)


In any case, the parts are done and delivered, rehearsals are well underway at Oberlin, and I’m ridiculously excited to be on site right now for the PREMIERE PERFORMANCES! If you are in the Cleveland/Oberlin area, you can attend in person; here are the details:

January 27 – 8PM EST

January 28 – 8PM EST

January 29 – 6:30PM EST


Finney Chapel

90 North Professor Street

Oberlin, OH 44074, USA

Tickets are free, you just need to register at this link.

And if you are not in the Oberlin area, you can also watch a livestream, hooray! It’s live watching only (afaik you can’t view it after the fact, at least not right away), so put it in your calendar and click here at the above times. 

If you want to learn more about Alice,  Oberlin student Joshua Reinier wrote an awesome article about the inspiration behind the project: Oberlin Opera Theater Presents World Premiere of "Alice Tierney" Jan. 27-29 “Alice Tierney excavates the stories we tell about the past, and gives students a unique Winter Term opportunity to develop an opera from the ground up.”
And an article just dropped today on Cleveland Classical which goes into even more of the process and includes interviews with me, librettist Jacqueline Goldfinger, and director Chris Mirto, check it out here.
And stay tuned, because there are already future performances of Alice planned at Opera Columbus later in the spring! I am so excited about all of this. Matt and Adah are also flying out to Oberlin and will be there for the premiere tomorrow!
Adah: Actually, Melissa and I are going to be flying to Ohio twice in the span of a month – you can catch us in Cincinnati February 21-26 for the American Choral Directors Association conference. We have a whole spreadsheet of people to look out for, so please let us know if you’ll be there and want to connect! If we haven’t already bothered you about it, of course.
Melissa: The ACDA conference hasn’t happened for four years because of COVID, so I’m imagining it’s going to be pretty wild for everyone to see each other in person again. Also, there’s a Composer Fair, held in conjunction with the conference Exhibit Happy Hour on Wednesday, February 22, 2023 from 6:00pm-8:00pm. I paid for a table, so you’ll be able to find Adah and I there for sure.
Adah: We’ve been printing multiple stacks of scores to give out at the composer fair and also to any of the 15,000 choral directors and singers who pass us in the hallways of the Duke Energy Convention Center, so look out for us.
Melissa: I am especially excited to finally put my huge fancy Hulken rolling bag to good use after being **aggressively** marketed to by Hulken on Instagram, hahaha.


Adah: In somewhat related news, we just opened up a shop for Boghouse merch on Instagram and Facebook – so if you are looking for some mugs inspired by 18th century privy finds, or jewelry made from ancient teeth, check out the page!



Melissa: We don't want to take up too much of your time, so here’s a roundup of other composition news:

My new double-song set for SATB chorus and piano The Canticle of Hannah (about Hannah Callowhill Penn, whom you will know all about if you follow the Boghouse!) was premiered by Singing City at their fall concert, which was a great success! Yo can see video of it here: 
The Canticle of Hannah
Singing City and Melissa Dunphy
YAY!!!! Opera Philadelphia is picking up Everything for Dawn by Experiments in Opera for their channel next season! So thrilled to have more of my stuff available for streaming through my hometown opera company 🤩

Lara St. John’s album She/Her/Hers, on which she performs tracks by both Adah and me, is getting radio play all over the place! Here’s an interview she did with about the music.

And here are two opportunities with upcoming deadlines that you should apply for and/or send to all your composer friends!

The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center National Puppetry Conference applications are open till the end of this month! Join Melissa and Matt in the music strand, it is A BLAST!

This spring, Wildflower Composers are conducting workshops for early-career composers, and I’ll be teaching one!

You can register for the courses here: needs-based scholarships are available.

That’s everything (or as much as we could fit in this issue)! Hoping we see you at Oberlin (in person or on the livestream) or at ACDA, otherwise, catch you in 4-6 weeks for our next newsletter!

Melissa and Adah