Friday, June 07, 2024


Adah and Dan pose in front of neighborhood truck fire chaos

Always an adventure in the office. We promise the truck wasn’t on fire when we got there.

Adah: Welcome back to a long long long overdue Mormolyke Press Team newsletter—as you might guess, things have been insanely busy here in the office, so buckle up for quite the exciting list of Melissa Dunphy updates! First off, we have THREE new staff members to introduce…


Melissa: I keep expecting my life as a composer to slow down, but it appears to be snowballing!? NB my commission dance card is now full through 2027. As I keep saying (between hyperventilating at my workload), being too busy is a pretty great problem to have. And I’m happy and relieved to have some extra hands on deck to manage everything—like writing this newsletter, a mountain of a task which always seems to grow to a point where it becomes impossible to scale.

Adah: A lot has happened since we last sent out a newsletter, so we should probably get you all caught up…


Our fabulous booth setup at the NOA conference.

Dan: Melissa, Adah, and I started off the year promoting Alice Tierney in Tempe, Arizona, at the National Opera Association Conference. The trip included my and Adah’s first meal at In-N-Out, a mountain hike before sunrise, and a visit to Organ Stops Pizza—and concluded with Adah falling and shattering her foot and knee, refusing to let us take her to the ER, and flying all the way back to Philadelphia claiming it was “just a sprain.”

Adah in a hospital bed with a very broken foot

Adah, “perfectly fine,” an hour after getting back home.

Then, in February, we roadtripped to Providence for the ACDA Eastern Region conference; along the way, we picked up Sarah and met up with Kira in West Hartford for a Mormolyke Press reunion! During the conference, we also dined out at what must be the most authentic Mexican restaurant in Rhode Island.

Adah: All sorts of other exciting events took place at the conference itself! Philly choir PhilHarmonia held a session called “The Unearthing and Illumination of Stories: Music of Melissa Dunphy,” and performed what seemed like half of Melissa’s catalog—thank you PhilHarmonia, we love you <3

PhilHarmonia and Melissa Dunphy

Dan: During the conference, I was lucky enough to join Melissa for a rehearsal of her brand new piece, Pipe Down, commissioned for the Middle School Honor Choir under the direction of the incredible Liana Salinas.

Melissa Dunphy with the ACDA Eastern Middle School Honor Choir

After rehearsal, a lot of the young singers were asking for Melissa’s autograph, but she had it covered—earlier that week, she learned that when AndrĂ© Thomas was commissioned for an ACDA honor choir, he took all the singers' scores back to his hotel room and signed them, and if AndrĂ© Thomas can make the time to do that, you bet your life Melissa can too! I helped collect over 200 copies of the sheet music, and the students were thrilled to get their own signed scores at the premiere the next day. If you want to see the score for yourself, it’s now available for download here.

The Press goes wild for Melissa’s new Gritty song!

"A glorious choral hymn about Gritty premieres this weekend" in the Philadelphia Inquirer
"Finally, the World Gets the Gritty Choral Work It Deserves" in Philadelphia Magazine

Adah: Melissa recently completed A Gritty Resolution, a maximalist hymn of praise to everyone’s favorite “fuzzy eldritch horror” and “non-binary leftist icon.” Commissioning choir PhilHarmonia, under the direction of the wonderful Mitos Andaya-Hart, will give the premiere at the Germantown Branch of Settlement Music School on Saturday—the concert is free, but seats are limited, so register here if you plan to attend.

A Gritty Resolution sets excerpts from Helen Gym’s 2018 Philadelphia City Council Resolution welcoming Gritty to the city, and we can’t remember the last time a new choral work generated this much excitement:

The score will be available on Melissa’s website after the premiere, and you can see a preview from Monday night’s rehearsal below…

Gritty Rehearsal Preview

Dan: And on Sunday the Drexel university chorus will be premiering a set of two songs about gentrification in West Philly called Our Home, Our City with text by Melissa and Jacqueline Goldfinger. Details for the concert are here. Keep your eyes peeled for the score on Melissa’s website soon.


Melissa: When I got the call a few months ago to write a new work for THE PROMS, to be premiered by VOCES8 and THE KINGS SINGERS at ROYAL ALBERT HALL, I am definitely not too proud or cool to admit I literally screamed for ten minutes.

Dan: For those who may not know, the BBC Proms is the world’s largest classical music festival that presents a wide range of world class performances in London every summer. It’s basically a huge giant deal.

Melissa: I grew up watching Last Night of the Proms on TV in Australia, and now I’ve been commissioned to write something for a Prom?!! Ahhhhhhhh wowow dream come true. If you happen to be in London, get your tickets to Prom 3 on July 21st.

Dan: The new work, Totality, captures the transcendent experience of witnessing a total solar eclipse, something Melissa first saw in 2017. To prepare herself for the commission, Melissa caught the total solar eclipse that crossed the country in April while she was in Saint Louis for a different premiere (which we’ll cover in a future newsletter)—see some photos below!

Major new work for TTBB chorus:
The Things We Leave Behind

Dan: Last month, Melissa traveled to Vancouver, Canada, for a very exciting premiere with famed TTBB ensemble Chor Leoni, conducted by Erick Lichte. The Things We Leave Behind is a multi-movement work for TTBB chorus, soprano saxophone, and harp—and Melissa wrote the text herself: a collection of vignettes about objects that tell stories, contrasting archaeological artifacts from the past with modern equivalents. For example, the first song is about the Venus of Willendorf, followed by a song about a Barbie doll abandoned in an attic. Here is an awesome promotional video for the concert! 

Melissa: One of the ways that archaeology can shift our thinking is by encouraging us to see our place in a broader timeline and guiding us as we prepare the world for future generations. One of my favorite movements is about microscopic particles embedded in the bed of Crawford Lake and the record they leave of humankind’s impact on the planet. There’s also a song that sets quotes inscribed on 19th-century pots by enslaved black potter David Drake—I had the honor of encountering one of these pots on a trip to an archaeology conference earlier this year (more about that below!).

Melissa cradling a David Drake pot

The score for The Things We Leave Behind will be available soon, and there are plans for a future recording, so stay tuned!

Dan: While in Vancouver, Melissa casually met design legend John Fluevog while shopping for Fluevog shoes. Naturally, she ended up spending way too much money, because if John Fluevog himself is selling you his shoes, you’re pretty much obligated to buy them.

And to top off an already eventful trip, she was also able to catch the Northern Lights in the Vancouver sky!


Adah: Since our last newsletter, Melissa’s archaeology opera Alice Tierney has been mounted twice more: at her home university, Rutgers (shoutout to Will), and at Lawrence University in Wisconsin. See some photos from the productions below—if you know of an opera company or university that might be interested in a 60-minute chamber opera perfect for students, please get in touch!

Dan: In a few weeks, Melissa will be heading to San Francisco to attend the American Guild of Organists Conference for the premiere of Generations, a new song cycle commissioned by AGO for soprano and organ, with text by Jacqueline Goldfinger. We’ll let Melissa tell you a bit about the project:

Adah: And shortly after, Melissa will be off to Minneapolis for the premiere of Every BODY, a choral cycle amplifying body positivity. Her movement, The Price of Ambition features poetry by Shelley Zhang. You can view information about the premiere in Minneapolis here, and livestream tickets are available.

Other events coming up this summer and fall:

  • The phenomenal Voces8 will be performing Halcyon Days at the Sydney Opera House (Melissa’s homeland) in June as part of Utzon Music 2024.

  • Just after Thanksgiving, Eric Whitacre will also be conducting Halcyon Days (popular choice, what can I say), at *the* Carnegie Hall – tickets aren’t out yet, but you can see further information here!


Melissa: OMG there are so many new recording releases and videos! Check some of them out below…


Adah:  Melissa has written SO much new music the past few months, and a whole bunch of new scores we haven’t even mentioned are now up on Melissa’s website. If you’re interested in performing any of her self-published work, it’s super easy; and prices, as always, are incredibly reasonable! Fill out the score order form with some basic information about the performance and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible. 

  • Chants, a song cycle for soprano and clarinet setting poetry by Australian poet and witch Rosaleen Norton is now available on Melissa’s website—stay tuned also for a recording release later this year by commissioning ensemble Whistling Hens.

  • You can also download a new piano arrangement of A Slice of Pie, a jazzy choral work with text by Feminista Jones.

  • Melissa’s set quite a bit of Lola Ridge’s poetry, so we’ve finally compiled all of her four Lola Ridge SSAA choral works into one combined edition.

  • We’ve made a separate score for #UnitedWeDream from American DREAMers since it’s performed so often!

  • A new SATB arrangement of N-400 Erasure Songs is now available too. Change, written for the Lake Superior Youth Chorus, is now available through E.C. Schirmer in SSA and SSAB editions, and you can also see a scrolling score recording of the SSAB version.

  • A TTBB arrangement of Work is now available on E.C. Schirmer.


  • Melissa discusses her musical background and comments on her influences while writing Alice Tierney in a profile with the magazine of her Alma Mater, Penn Omnia.

  • Melissa discusses writing for sacred spaces with Jennaya Robison of the National Lutheran Choir.

  • Melissa discusses her plans for her basement, exploring political themes in her music, the construct of time, and if music truly holds the power to spark global change on the Aquarian Music Witch podcast.

  • Melissa discusses “bridging the exquisite and the accessible” on the Choir Fam podcast.

  • Melissa discusses Alice Tierney as well as Cricket (the sport) on Opera Box Score.


Dan: Last November, I joined the Mormolyke team for my first privy dig (and Melissa’s seventh? eighth?)! It was so awesome being able to uncover these artifacts – unearthing a collection of miscellaneous bones and ceramics was definitely one of the highlights of my year!

Dan, Adah, and privy digger Michael Frechette excavate a privy

Dan: Melissa and Matt were invited to speak at the Ceramics in Context conference this past March in Colonial Williamsburg. Here’s a quick clip from their presentation:

Melissa: Jumping in to bring this newsletter to a close, and say a massive thank you to my intrepid assistants for their energy and talent and hard work. Also I have to mention how incredibly proud I am of Adah, who will begin her Bachelor of Music, majoring in composition and violin performance, at Boston University this fall on a full ride!!!! I first met Adah as a composition student when she was just 14, and put her on payroll as an assistant when she was 16, so I’m beyond delighted to see her success (and believe me when I tell you her college admissions process was ridiculously successful, with several extremely fancy schools rolling out the red carpet in their bid for her attendance). I’m going to be devastated to lose her from the Mormolyke Press team when she leaves Philly, but I’m also pretty confident that she’s entering her studies leaps and bounds ahead when it comes to having real-world experience of freelance composing life! Here’s an interview she did earlier this year with Philadelphia’s Network for New Music, who performed two of her works in January:

And with that, I’m signing off. If you actually read this whole newsletter, hats off to you, it’s a big one, hahaha. See you next time!

—Melissa and the Mormolyke Press team

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