Tuesday, May 16, 2023

A Very New and Exciting Newsletter




It’s been one of the most B-A-N-A-N-A-S springs of my life, and I have been running myself ragged, which is why you haven’t heard from me since I groused about the BBC Singers attempted disbandment back in March. Those of you who were following that travesty know that the BBC walked back their decision, in part thanks to the immense public outcry so that’s some good news! The fight is not over, however, and I hope you’ll join me in being vigilant and rising the hell up when incredible arts institutions like the BBC Singers are attacked (as they are apparently constantly by people who don’t understand the necessity of art to human civilization and well-being).

First order of business: since my last newsletter, in response to the burgeoning administrative responsibilities of my career, we have welcomed a second assistant to Mormolyke Press at the Hannah Callowhill Stage! Meet Kira Mahoney, whom I first met as a composition student when she was finishing her degree in Music and Technology at Stevens Institute of Technology. Kira was initially supposed to come on board late last year, but she was working as an audio engineer for the Philadelphia Eagles and needed to wait until their season was finished. “I’m sure that will happen soon,” I figured. Reader, it did not. But now that that’s all done with, I’m so happy to have her in the office with Adah and me!

Kira Mahoney headshot

The biggest news since my last proper newsletter, of course, is that my one-act opera, Alice Tierney, with libretto by Jacqueline Goldfinger, premiered at Oberlin Conservatory, and then received its professional premiere at Opera Columbus in late March. It went SO WELL! I cannot tell you how life-changing it was to see Jackie’s words and my music brought to life on stage by these incredible young artists. 

Curtain call of Alice Tierney, opening night premiere at Oberlin Conservatory

More Alice Tierney news: I recently commissioned UK-based artist Caroline Church to create cover art for the score in the style of a 19th-century engraving. If you compare the faces in her illustration below to the cast above, you might notice that Caroline was able to incorporate Oberlin’s three versions of Alice into the art, so the singers who premiered the roles will be immortalized on the score cover forever.

Curious to see a full video of the Oberlin production? Shoot me a reply and let me know, and I’ll see what I can do ;)

If, on the other hand (or additionally) you want to see a copy of the score, I can help you out there too! Adah, Kira and I have been busy printing and binding scores to hand out at the Opera America conference in Pittsburgh this week—they’re literally hard at work binding scores as I type this newsletter—and we have extra copies that you can purchase on Bandcamp at basically cost. It’s $10 for the piano-vocal score, or if you are a soprano and want some ready-made excerpted arias to sing at your next recital or audition, here’s a collection of three arias for only $3 (plus shipping in both cases).

For good measure, I also threw the organ score for the Gonzales Cantata up on Bandcamp, since we’ve been printing those out for distribution at Opera America too ($8 + S&H).

More info about new scores towards the end of this newsletter, which is going to be way too long, apologies in advance.

One of the reasons I am losing my mind and physical health right now (I’m doing my best to get over an allergy-assisted respiratory infection as I type this) is that this spring has been jam-packed with travel. Round-up incoming…

I did a week-long residency at Seattle University, whose choirs performed a concert that included a bunch of my works, including American DREAMers. Coincidentally, the AWP writers conference was happening at the same time, so in an amazing bit of kismet, I was also able to run into Janine Joseph and Claudia D. Hernández, who wrote two of the texts included in American DREAMers! Claudia attended the Seattle U concert, along with two of my best friends from Australia, Jason and James, who were also coincidentally in town. Seattle, you are kind of magic!!?!?

Selfie with Seattle U choirs

Adah and I traveled to the American Choral Directors Association conference in Cincinnati (too much to say, not even going to try to recap), and to New York City with Matt for a performance of Eight of Swords at Carnegie Hall.

Carnegie Hall

In my first ever trip to Vermont, I traveled to Yellow Barn for a residency with Glass Clouds Ensemble, culminating in the delivery of a fun little commissioned work for soprano and two violins, Decomposition—score available at that link if you’re interested. The score cover art is a sketch I drew when I was a 16-year-old baby goth who dreamed of becoming a forensic pathologist:

Decomposition cover art

A few weeks ago, Matt and I drove to Allentown for a whole concert of my music with the choirs of Muhlenberg College, including Amendment: Righting Our Wrongs. Their chapel is a beautiful venue that makes every photo look like a Dutch group portrait:

Posing with the choirs of Muhlenberg College

Two Saturdays ago, I was in Alexandria, VA, for the premiere of You Birth the Seeds with the Alexandria Choral Society, with text by Alexandria’s Poet Laureate, Zeina Azzam. Recording coming soon, but you can check out the score at the link above.

Chorus director Brian Isaac, me, and poet Zeina Azzam

Matt and I drove home at midnight after that concert, and by 5AM, I was at the airport for a trip to Duluth for a workshop with the Lake Superior Youth Chorus, who premiered a new commission Change this past Sunday. Honestly I was too busy meeting the fabulous young singers to remember to take a selfie, but check out this cover art for my score drawn by choir member Lexi Gustafson (more singer-created artwork inspired by Change at the score link above):

Change cover art

And as I already implied, tomorrow Adah and I are hitting the road again for the Opera America conference. If you’re in Pittsburgh and want to connect, stop by my exhibitor table next to the elevator to meet me and Jackie Goldfinger! I printed out this giant banner, so you won’t be able to miss us. Also I am getting over laryngitis, which is good news or bad news, depending on whether or not you think I talk too much.

Giant Alice Tierney banner and unwashed composer

Let’s see, what else?

In addition to a new TTBB arrangement of Halcyon Days, I am the World, the song I wrote for the BBC Singers, has been published by Edition Peters. Listen I would be lying if I said it didn't give me a FEEL seeing my name in THE FONT:

I am the World

Couple delayed premieres! First one I should mention is Mabel Lee, 1912, whose first performance was cancelled by COVID back in 2020. It’s been premiered now by the William and Mary Botetourt Chamber Singers, so the score is newly available for you to download! This was a collaboration with poet Esther Lin, and I can’t wait to share the recording once the Bots post it. I remember writing this song during some of the darkest days of the pandemic, and when I heard a rehearsal recording, I had a really cathartic cry.

Mabel Lee, 1912

Next premiere is really delayed: I wrote a short and sweet little art song back when I was in undergrad fifteen years ago (!!!) called a summer more like a song (poem by Sueyeun Juliette Lee), and it’s never been premiered—until now! Never lose hope, better late than never, etc. Performed at a BIPOC Voices Showcase in Vancouver by baritone Henry Chen, with Francisco Barradas on violin, Judy Lou on cello, and Rich Coburn on piano:

Soundcloud link: a summer more like a song

While you’re in a listening mood, why not check out Everything for Dawn, now on the Opera Philadelphia channel if you happen to subscribe (which you should). This video opera series is also available on NYC’s ALL-ARTS, but I’m pretty thrilled to see it on my hometown opera company’s streaming service:

Everything for Dawn at Opera Philadelphia

And finally, Kira’s helped created a score follow video for Songs for the People, which I wrote for Seattle Pro Musica last year. Hear them perform it here, and download the score for free here.

Songs for the People (SATB)

Is that everything? Well, no. Like I said, it’s been OUT OF CONTROL around here. I’m hanging on for dear life, as are Kira and Adah! But a final fun thing: we’re still doing archaeology stuff, somehow. Right before we drove down to Alexandria last week, Matt and I did a walking tour for Hidden City. Matt did most of the work, prepping lots of information and history about our neighborhood (see the mobile-friendly slideshow he created here!) but I also had an opportunity to yap about 18th-century privy artifacts to a super friendly crowd of interested folks. I’ll leave you with this last image as I dive back into my massive to-do list…

Wow, you made it to the end! Thanks for reading this long thing.

Melissa Dunphy

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